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Club Q Massacre

Posted 12/09/2022 by Ben Hartley

The five Club Q shooting victims are memorialized. photo courtesy of David Zalubowski (AP)

A look into how the shooting unfolded and the suspect’s controversial past.

On November 19, at approximately 11:56 p.m., an active shooter began raining bullets down on the patrons of Club Q, an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs. Just six minutes later, police apprehended the suspect, but not before he managed to kill five people and injure seventeen with a long rifle. Police were not forced to respond with their own firepower because of two brave Club Q customers that fought to subdue the shooter. While the courage displayed in this shooting is undeniably an example of heroism, the massacre itself raises questions about the rigidity of Colorado’s red flag laws and the shooter’s shady past. 

While, the shooting lasted fewer than just ten minutes, it resulted in a lifetime of terror for many of the customers and workers at Club Q. Some of those in attendance that night were not immediately alarmed by the loud popping sounds coming from the shooter’s rifle. The DJ and bartender the night of the shooting both initially passed the sound of gunshots off as effects included in the music. One particular victim of the shooting, 63 year-old Ed Sanders, claims he could not process what was happening until he was shot for a second time while ordering a drink from the bar. To many of those a part of the LGBTQ community in Colorado Springs, Club Q has served as a haven to escape judgment and become surrounded by acceptance. This shooting has not only stripped this feeling of security from the customers of Club Q but has also struck fear into their hearts. Josh Thurman, another customer that night, also claims to have mistook the shots for the club’s loud music. Thurman did not realize there was a shooter until he turned around to see the bright muzzle flash of a gun. In an interview with CNN, Thurman shared his love for Club Q and expressed his frustration, saying “How, why? As a Black kid, it’s taboo to be gay. This is one of the first places where I’ve felt accepted to be who I am. What are we supposed to do? Where are we supposed to go? How are we supposed to feel safe?” Unfortunately, it is likely the witnesses of this shooting will never return to the same feelings of security they once had. 

November 19th was undoubtedly a night of violence and death, but the death count would have been far worse if not for the heroics of two brave customers at Club Q. Richard Fierro and Thomas James, men who have both served time in the military, honed their instincts to swiftly subdue the perpetrator. According to the New York Times, Fierro served as a platoon leader and went on four separate combat deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan across his 15 years of service. After years spent trying to suppress the memories of war, Fierro was prepared for a pleasant evening as he watched his daughter’s friend from high school perform in a drag show. Fierro was accompanied by his wife Jess, two family friends, his daughter Kassandra, and her boyfriend Raymond Green Vance. 

It was Fierro’s will to protect his family that compelled him to spring towards the shooter. Instincts crafted by combat overtook Fierro as he charged the shooter and began beating him senselessly with the suspect’s ancillary weapon; a minuscule act of violence compared to the slaughtering just seconds earlier. While continuing to pistol whip the shooter, Fierro demanded another customer, U.S Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Thomas James, to grab the assault rifle and begin kicking the shooter in his face. James, who is still recovering in the hospital from injuries sustained during the fight, released a statement opening with the following remarks, “I simply wanted to save the family I found. If I had my way, I would shield everyone I could from the nonsensical acts of hate in this world, but I am only one person.” Many of those who escaped Club Q owe their lives to these two men. Men who serve to protect all types of people living in America. 

As of December 6th, 2022, wicked Club Q shooter Anderson Lee Aldrich has been charged with 305 criminal counts. Along with a plethora of others, his worst offenses include first-degree murder and bias-motivated crimes. Not only did Aldrich enter Club Q wearing a flak-jacket, but he also wore an AR-style rifle and holstered a handgun; guns designed to kill human beings. As more news about Aldirch’s past surfaces, many people have begun questioning how Aldrich possessed these guns in a state with a red flag law. A law that prohibits the purchase of firearms by those who have been deemed dangerous to others and themselves. Just a year and a half before the Club Q shooting, Aldrich allegedly engineered a homemade bomb, which he used to threaten his mother. This dreadful event forced surrounding neighbors to evacuate their homes while members of a bomb-squad verbally coerced Aldrich to surrender. Regardless of his actions, no evidence exists proving that prosecutors ever officially convicted him with felony kidnapping and menacing charges. These events are the reason many have wondered how Aldirch was ever allowed to purchase a gun after actions easily deemed harmful to oneself and others. However, there is one fatal flaw to the application of red flag laws, which happened to work in Aldrich’s favor. For someone to be deemed unfit, a relative, police, or doctor must petition a court to take away one’s right to owning a firearm. In Aldrich’s case, no one applied the law. This shooting is a prime example of how the red flag law, existing in 19 states, is only beneficial when citizens are aware of it or decide to put it to practice. 

Former UFC fighter and current adult film actor, Aaron Brink, is the father of Aldrich; a son with a different last name. When asked to speak with CBS 8, Brink claimed that he was under the notion his son was dead up until roughly six months ago. Brink said this lie was fed to him over the phone by his ex-wife from Colorado in 2016. Brink claims his ex-wife, Laura Voepel, relayed over the information that their son, Nicholas Brink, had changed his name to Anderson Aldrich because he did not appreciate his father’s involvement in the adult film industry as well as a reality TV show called Intervention. Before learning further details about the shooting, Nicholas Brink, as a Mormon man, first questioned why his son was at a gay bar. When speaking with CBS 8, Brink said, “You know Mormons don’t do gay. We don’t do gay. There’s no gays in the Mormon church. We don’t do gay.” Brink, who fought in the UFC in 2000, now works as a mixed martial arts coach. Brink additionally said to CBS 8, “I praised him for violent behavior really early. I told him it works. It is instant and you’ll get immediate results.” It is fair to say that Brink instilled both homophobia and violence into his child’s mind. Aldrich’s actions cannot possibly be justified. However, it is reasonable to infer that Brink, whose son now sits behind bars, holds some degree of responsibility for the events that transpired on November 19.