Colorado Springs, Colo. — As the sun set over Colorado’s Front Range, the dark Colorado Springs strip mall that has long been home to Club Q lit up with flickering candles and flashes of news cameras Sunday night.
Couples hand in hand and parents with children bundled up in wool blankets where a makeshift memorial of cellophane-wrapped flowers and handwritten notes continued to grow outside the gay and lesbian club since early Sunday.
A 22-year-old gunman opened fire with a semiautomatic rifle at a Colorado Springs nightclub on Saturday night, killing five people and wounding 25 others, officials said. Officials said the condition of at least seven of the 25 injured was critical. A police spokesman said some people were injured trying to escape, and it was unclear whether all the victims had been shot.
They were later subdued by “gallant” patrons and arrested by police within minutes, according to officials.
Scheana Ray, 27, said that as members of the LGBTQ+ community of Colorado Springs, she and her girlfriend, Casside Butterface, 27, wanted to show their support for Club Q on Sunday night. By then, it had been nearly 12 hours since the couple was awoken by a barrage of calls and text messages.
Ray – who frequented Club Q and danced there – said she knew two people who were at the club at the time of the shooting. They both survived.
When news of the shooting broke Butterface said one thought came to mind: “Why?”
Club Q Latest Shooting:‘Brave’ patrons subdue attacker during deadly Colorado LGBTQ nightclub attack
‘I feel angry as well as sad’
Former Colorado Springs resident Terry Miles also made his way to Club Q on Sunday night, carrying one of the few bouquets of flowers he found at a local Trader Joe’s on the monument’s rising mound.
“I don’t know if I have any words right now. Just feelings,” Miles said.
One of the mourners who visited a makeshift memorial at the site of the attack, Joseph Reininger, has lived in Colorado Springs since 1972 and said he brought flowers because he supports the LGBTQ-plus community.
“They’re nice people and I get to queue for drag shows. I love the people,” said Reininger.
“It (the shooting) makes me feel sad as well as angry,” he said. Colorado Springs is like a hotbed for him—a conservative community. Although this has changed over the years, we still have a long way to go.”
Michael Travis, dressed in a Texas police chaplain’s uniform, visited the scene to play “taps” on a trumpet. “We’re all feeling shocked and sad, so I’ve come out to comfort everyone,” Travis said.
Travis said he has visited Club Q often and “it’s a great place that makes it safe for everyone in the LGBTQ-plus community. It was a place where you could come and forget about work and It was a home for everybody.”
Travis said, “We’re not even safe in our own home. Hopefully this is an isolated incident.”
‘When will it close?’:LGBTQ community, Pulse survivors react to Club Q shooting in Colorado Springs
‘The Worst Nightwear Every LGBTQ Parent Is’
Among the honorees outside Club Q on Sunday afternoon was Colleen Bunkers, who wore a placard around her neck that read: “Free hugs from the mother of a trans son. We love you.”
She said her son, now 23, has been coming to the club since he was 18, but was at home when the shooting began. Bunkers said he had hugged at least 15 people at the memorial.
“I want them to know that they’ve gone through a lot to get where they are and that they don’t need to,” she said. “They are loved, precious and we care.”
Bunkers said that his son recently moved back to Colorado Springs because he thought it would be safer, and that having this happen is “every LGBTQ parent’s worst nightmare.” Still, she persevered.
Bunkers said, “I taught her to be confident and that love is the answer.” “We will not let this madness win.”
‘Tired of the lack of places where we can live safely’
Colorado Springs, a city with a population of approximately 480,000 located 70 miles (112 km) south of Denver, is home to the US Air Force Academy, the US Olympic Training Center as well as Focus on the Family, a prominent evangelical Christian ministry. who advocates against it. LGBTQ Rights. The group condemned the shooting, saying it “exposes the evil and wickedness deep inside the human heart.”
Seth Stang was buying flowers for the memorial when he was told that two of the dead were his friends. The 34-year-old transgender man said it was “like a bucket of hot water being dropped on you. … I’m tired of running away from places where we can live safely.”
Ryan Johnson, who lives near the club and moved there last month, said it was one of only two nights out for the LGBTQ community in conservative-leaning Colorado Springs. “It’s kind of a go-to for Pride,” the 26-year-old said of the club, which is behind other businesses including a bowling alley and a sandwich shop.
Contribution: Associated Press