Warning: Some of the images in this article may be disturbing.
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) - It was just days before Thanksgiving on what was supposed to be a fun night out among friends when the unthinkable happened at Club Q on North Academy Blvd in Colorado Springs.
For the first few hours, confirmed facts were difficult to find.
It was around 3 a.m. when the police department released the initial numbers.
"It's with a heavy heart that I have to tell you that we had a shooting at a local club this evening,” were the first words from CSPD Public Information Officer Pamela Castro, “We have 18 injured and 5 deceased."
The shooter, wearing body armor and carrying several firearms including a rifle with several magazines, had walked into the club minutes before midnight and started firing without warning.
“I was dancing. I heard shots,” recalled Joshua Thurman.
But Thurman, the first witness to speak with KRDO13 at the scene, didn’t realize what was happening at that moment.
“I didn't hear any screams or anything like that. So I thought it was the music,” he said.
He was also the first to explain to KRDO13 what Club Q meant to the LGBTQ+ community.
“It's a place of welcome, a place of peace, a place for us to be ourselves.”
Other survivors would share their stories as well, some still wearing hospital gowns, including Barrett Hudson, who watched people around him go down.
“I saw some guy put his hands up like this, and take a few steps back, and he shot him like he was nothing,” he said via Zoom from his hospital bed, “I went through the back, through these two double doors. I got shot seven times. I fell. I got back up after he shot me. And I knew I got hit twice, but I had no clue I got hit seven times.
Hudson ran a quarter of a mile down the street for help where he called his dad.
“I didn't think I was going to make it, and I wanted him to be the last person I talked to,” he recalled.
Almost as soon as the sun came up on Sunday, November 20, hundreds came to the scene with flowers, candles, posters, and more.
They hugged and prayed together.
At an 8 a.m. news conference, we learned the name of the shooter, Anderson Aldrich, who had put together 'ghost guns' using gun parts bought online.
Investigators would later find anti-gay images he posted online, and handwritten notes expressing his disregard for life.
His rampage only ended because two men at the club that night took him down, Thomas James and Richard Fierro.
“And we praise those individuals who did so because their actions clearly saved lives,” said Mayor John Suthers after the shooting.
James was an active member of the Navy, while Fierro was an army veteran.
“Without those two there, we don't know what would have happened, how many more people would have been shot. Would someone else have engaged the suspect? We don't know that. But they did,” said CSPD Chief Adrian Vasquez.
By Sunday night, churches and temples across the city had opened their doors for people to mourn the victims.
Among those who came out was the owner of Club Q, Matthew Haynes.
“Club Q doesn't have employees, Club Q doesn't have customers,” he told a full room at All Souls Universalist Unitarian Church, “Club Q has family and community.”
It was the following day back at the police station that the chief confirmed the names of the victims... Kelly Loving, Daniel Aston, Derrick Rump, Ashley Paugh, and Raymond Green Vance.