Although Colorado authorities on Sunday evening had yet to identify the victims of a mass shooting in an LGBTQ nightclub, friends and family of two bartenders reportedly killed by gunfire came forward to remember them and mourn their loss.
Daniel Davis Aston was identified as one of the victims at Colorado Springs’ Club Q by his mother. Aston, 28, was a transgender man. On Sunday—Transgender Day of Remembrance—Sabrina Aston told ABC News her son had been amazing and quick to make friends.
Leia-Jhene Seals, a drag performer who had been onstage Saturday night, recalled to The Gazette that Aston had been energetic and quick to offer help, adding, “He was always, ‘Do you need anything?’”
A regular at Club Q, Jessi Hazelwood told The Denver Post that Aston had once let her stay after hours to sober up before heading home for the night. She told the newspaper the bartender had whipped out a deck of Uno cards to entertain her and the others still at the club. “This is our family,” she said.
The Gazette also identified bartender Derrick Rump as one of the deceased. (Leia-Jhene Seals said they believed the other three people killed had been club patrons.) Rump, also a co-owner of Club Q, “was all about keeping people happy,” Tiara Latrice Kelley, another Club Q performer, told the apper. Another customer, Dani Birzer, said Rump had made him feel safe whenever he was at the club, The Gazette reported.
It was apparently a common sentiment. In January, the author of a Twitter account associated with Aston by friends mourning his loss wrote, “Every time. Every single goddamn time I even have the slightest thought of leaving Club Q, someone comes up and tells me ‘you’re the reason I love this bar’ or ‘you and Derrick make me feel so safe and welcome here.’”
Though it was not clear to whom she was referring, Del Lusional, a drag queen who had been hosting a punk and alternative musical show at Club Q when gunfire erupted tweeted in fury on Sunday, “YOU TOOK MY FUCKING BROTHER. I HOPE YOU FUCKING ROT IN HELL. I HOPE THEY FUCKING DESTROY YOU IN PRISON.”
The 22-year-old suspect, Anderson Lee Aldrich, was arrested after police identified him as the gunman who opened fire inside Club Q minutes before midnight on Saturday. He allegedly killed people and wounded 25 more before being tackled by at least two unidentified clubgoers. “We owe them a great debt of thanks,” Colorado Springs Police Chief Adrian Vasquez said at a Sunday morning news conference.
The shooting is being investigated as a hate crime.
At least two victims were being treated for critical, life-threatening injuries on Sunday, Penrose Hospital Chief Medical Officer Bill Plauth told The Washington Post. One of the wounded, Jerecho Loveall, 30, was released from medical care around 6 a.m., according to the Post. Loveall told a New York Times reporter that he hadn’t realized he was bleeding until he went outside the club after the shooting. After he got to the hospital, he was told he had a “through-and-through bullet wound in my leg,” he said.
“Club Q is devastated by the senseless attack on our community,” the club said in a Facebook post hours after the shooting. “… We thank the quick reactions of heroic customers that subdued the gunman and ended this hate attack.” In a later post, the club encouraged users to “please please donate” to the Colorado Healing Fund, a nonprofit organization working to support the victims.
“This is our only safe space here in the Springs,” said Joshua Thurman, a 34-year-old club patron who had been out on the dance floor when the shooting started. He told KRDO NewsChannel 13 that, after hearing gunshots, he ran into a dressing room and huddled on the ground with a few other people with the lights off. “And so for this to get shot up—what are we going to do now? Where are we going to go?”
“Yeah, we can rebuild, and come together,” he said, crying, “but what about those people who lost their lives for no reason?”