Colorado governor visits shooting site as community heals

Nov 29, 2022, 3:08 AM | Updated: 7:34 pm
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, left, walks in front of a memorial set up outside Club Q in Colorado Spr...

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, left, walks in front of a memorial set up outside Club Q in Colorado Springs, Colo., Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022. Polis, the first openly gay man to be elected governor in the United States, paid tribute to the victims who were killed in last week's mass shooting at the gay nightclub. (Jerilee Bennett/The Gazette via AP)

(Jerilee Bennett/The Gazette via AP)

              Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, left, walks in front of a memorial set up outside Club Q in Colorado Springs, Colo., Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022. Polis, the first openly gay man to be elected governor in the United States, paid tribute to the victims who were killed in last week's mass shooting at the gay nightclub. (Jerilee Bennett/The Gazette via AP)
            
              The Rev. Paula Stecker, of the Christ the King Lutheran Church, walks in front of a memorial set up outside Club Q in Colorado Springs, Colo., Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022. A shooter opened fire and killed five people at the gay nightclub Nov. 19. (AP Photo/Thomas Peipert)
            
              Colorado Gov. Jared Polis wears a gay pride pin during a news conference outside Club Q in Colorado Springs, Colo., Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022. Polis, the first openly gay man to be elected governor in the United States, paid tribute to the five victims who were killed when a shooter opened fire at the gay nightclub Nov. 19. (AP Photo/ Thomas Peipert)
            
              Colorado Gov. Jared Polis speaks at a memorial set up outside Club Q in Colorado Springs, Colo., on Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022. Polis, the first openly gay man to be elected governor in the United States, paid tribute to the five victims who were killed when a shooter opened fire at the gay nightclub Nov. 19. (AP Photo/ Thomas Peipert)
            
              Richard Fierro, right, hugs a supporter at his brewery in Colorado Springs, Colo., Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022. Fierro helped subdue a shooter who killed five people at a gay nightclub Nov. 19. (AP Photo/ Thomas Peipert)
            
              Rev. Paula Stecker of the Christ the King Lutheran Church tidies up a memorial outside Club Q following last week's mass shooting at the gay nightclub, in Colorado Springs, Colo., Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022.  (AP Photo/ Thomas Peipert)
            
              Jess Rierro cries as her husband, Rich Fierro, center, receives a community award from Ent Credit Union with Gov. Jared Polis standing beside him, Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022, at the family's business, Atrevida Beer Co., in Colorado Springs, Colo. Fierro restrained the shooter during the fatal attack at Club Q in Colorado Springs on Nov. 19. Five people died and 17 were shot. (Christian Murdock/The Gazette via AP)
            
              Rich Fierro, left, and Gov. Jared Polis wave to Club Q victim Joanne Law via Facebook from Fierro's wife's business Atrevida Beer Co., where Fierro was being recognized as a community hero, Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022, in Colorado Springs, Colo. Fierro restrained the shooter during the fatal attack on Nov. 19. Five people died and 17 were shot at Club Q. (Christian Murdock/The Gazette via AP)
            
              Community hero Rich Fierro, right, visits with Tiffany Loving, sister of Kelly Loving who died in the Club Q shooting, before Fierro was publicly recognized at Atrevida Beer Co., Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022, in Colorado Springs, Colo. Fierro restrained the shooter during the attack on Nov. 19. Five people died and 17 were shot. (Christian Murdock/The Gazette via AP)
            
              Rev. Paula Stecker of the Christ the King Lutheran Church stands in front of a memorial set up outside Club Q following last week's mass shooting at the gay nightclub in Colorado Springs, Colo., Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022.  (AP Photo/Thomas Peipert)
            
              Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, left, walks in front of a memorial set up outside Club Q in Colorado Springs, Colo., Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022. Polis, the first openly gay man to be elected governor in the United States, paid tribute to the victims who were killed in last week's mass shooting at the gay nightclub. (Jerilee Bennett/The Gazette via AP)
            
              The Rev. Paula Stecker, of the Christ the King Lutheran Church, walks in front of a memorial set up outside Club Q in Colorado Springs, Colo., Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022. A shooter opened fire and killed five people at the gay nightclub Nov. 19. (AP Photo/Thomas Peipert)
            
              Colorado Gov. Jared Polis wears a gay pride pin during a news conference outside Club Q in Colorado Springs, Colo., Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022. Polis, the first openly gay man to be elected governor in the United States, paid tribute to the five victims who were killed when a shooter opened fire at the gay nightclub Nov. 19. (AP Photo/ Thomas Peipert)
            
              Colorado Gov. Jared Polis speaks at a memorial set up outside Club Q in Colorado Springs, Colo., on Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022. Polis, the first openly gay man to be elected governor in the United States, paid tribute to the five victims who were killed when a shooter opened fire at the gay nightclub Nov. 19. (AP Photo/ Thomas Peipert)
            
              Richard Fierro, right, hugs a supporter at his brewery in Colorado Springs, Colo., Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022. Fierro helped subdue a shooter who killed five people at a gay nightclub Nov. 19. (AP Photo/ Thomas Peipert)
            
              Rev. Paula Stecker of the Christ the King Lutheran Church tidies up a memorial outside Club Q following last week's mass shooting at the gay nightclub, in Colorado Springs, Colo., Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022.  (AP Photo/ Thomas Peipert)
            
              Jess Rierro cries as her husband, Rich Fierro, center, receives a community award from Ent Credit Union with Gov. Jared Polis standing beside him, Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022, at the family's business, Atrevida Beer Co., in Colorado Springs, Colo. Fierro restrained the shooter during the fatal attack at Club Q in Colorado Springs on Nov. 19. Five people died and 17 were shot. (Christian Murdock/The Gazette via AP)
            
              Rich Fierro, left, and Gov. Jared Polis wave to Club Q victim Joanne Law via Facebook from Fierro's wife's business Atrevida Beer Co., where Fierro was being recognized as a community hero, Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022, in Colorado Springs, Colo. Fierro restrained the shooter during the fatal attack on Nov. 19. Five people died and 17 were shot at Club Q. (Christian Murdock/The Gazette via AP)
            
              Community hero Rich Fierro, right, visits with Tiffany Loving, sister of Kelly Loving who died in the Club Q shooting, before Fierro was publicly recognized at Atrevida Beer Co., Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022, in Colorado Springs, Colo. Fierro restrained the shooter during the attack on Nov. 19. Five people died and 17 were shot. (Christian Murdock/The Gazette via AP)
            
              Rev. Paula Stecker of the Christ the King Lutheran Church stands in front of a memorial set up outside Club Q following last week's mass shooting at the gay nightclub in Colorado Springs, Colo., Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022.  (AP Photo/Thomas Peipert)
            
              The Rev. Paula Stecker, of the Christ the King Lutheran Church, walks in front of a memorial set up outside Club Q in Colorado Springs, Colo., Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022. A gunman opened fire and killed five people at the gay nightclub Nov. 19. (AP Photo/Thomas Peipert)
            
              Colorado Gov. Jared Polis wears a gay pride pin during a news conference outside Club Q in Colorado Springs, Colo., Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022. Polis, the first openly gay man to be elected governor in the United States, paid tribute to the five victims who were killed when a gunman opened fire at the gay nightclub Nov. 19. (AP Photo/ Thomas Peipert)
            
              Colorado Gov. Jared Polis speaks at a memorial set up outside Club Q in Colorado Springs, Colo., on Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022. Polis, the first openly gay man to be elected governor in the United States, paid tribute to the five victims who were killed when a gunman opened fire at the gay nightclub Nov. 19. (AP Photo/ Thomas Peipert)
            
              Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, left, walks in front of a memorial set up outside Club Q in Colorado Springs, Colo., Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022. Polis, the first openly gay man to be elected governor in the United States, paid tribute to the victims who were killed in last week's mass shooting at the gay nightclub. (Jerilee Bennett/The Gazette via AP)
            
              Colorado Gov. Jared Polis speaks in front of a memorial set up outside Club Q in Colorado Springs, Colo., Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022. Polis, the first openly gay man to be elected governor in the United States, paid tribute to the victims who were killed in last week's mass shooting at the gay nightclub.  (Jerilee Bennett/The Gazette via AP)
            
              Colorado Gov. Jared Polis speaks in front of a memorial set up outside Club Q in Colorado Springs, Colo., Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022. Polis, the first openly gay man to be elected governor in the United States, paid tribute to the victims who were killed in last week's mass shooting at the gay nightclub.  (Jerilee Bennett/The Gazette via AP)
            
              Colorado Gov. Jared Polis kneels in front of a memorial set up outside Club Q in Colorado Springs, Colo., Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022. Polis, the first openly gay man to be elected governor in the United States, paid tribute to the victims who were killed in a mass shooting at the gay nightclub on Nov. 19. (AP Photo/Thomas Peipert)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — In a crowded brewery, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis embraced Richard Fierro, the veteran hailed as a hero after tackling a shooter who killed five people and injured 17 others at the LGBTQ enclave Club Q last week.

There was a festive atmosphere Tuesday at Atrevida Beer, owned by Fierro, where patrons clutched pints of beer, a long line stretched across the room to the door, and above the bar was printed a message: “Diversity, it’s on tap.”

Fierro’s event, where Polis and the Colorado Springs mayor both made an appearance, was the paradigm of a catchphrase Fierro has repeated since the shooting: “Be nice, hug each other, take care of your neighbor.”

The hugs seemed contagious. Fierro squeezed Wyatt Kent, a drag queen whose 23rd birthday was being celebrated the night of the shooting, and chatted with his family.

Kent, who’s drag name is Potted Plant, was still reeling from the horrific night. Kent remembered shots, then collapsing below Kelly Loving, who had been shot in the chest. Squeezing her hand as they asked Siri to call 911, Kent then held Loving’s head, repeating “one more breath, just one more breath” before paramedics arrived.

The bleeding from Loving’s chest, was “like a hole in an air mattress,” said Kent, pausing and looking away. Loving was among the five dead, along with Daniel Aston, who Kent was in a relationship with. Aston had left strawberries, roses and a card for Kent’s birthday before he was killed.

Kent, who’d written 119 poems about Aston, went completely numb in the days afterward. Then, they began connecting with Aston’s family and friends, those “who loved him, it’s really healing,” they said.

Club Q’s community had been a steadfast support network, said Kent, one which has continued to undergird the community’s healing since the tragedy.

“If I pour myself out into others they will pour themselves out back into me,” said Kent, “and that’s what this community has always done.”

The broader Colorado Springs community is pouring out support for the survivors, too. At his brewery, Fierro was honored with $50,000 from a local credit union.

“I’ve never had that much money in my life,” said an astonished Fierro, who reiterated that “everyone in (Club Q) was a hero.”

Matt Gendron, chief engagement officer at Ent Credit Union and who’s employee had been in Club Q that night, said that Fierro “saved the lives of many people, including one of our family members.”

Earlier that day, Polis solemnly walked along a line of flowers, crosses and signs bearing the photos and names of the victims outside Club Q in Colorado Springs.

When he reached the end, he picked up a piece of pink chalk and drew a heart and wrote “We remember” on the pavement in front of the memorial, which had been covered with tarps to protect it from snow until his arrival.

“Five people are lost forever. We celebrate their lives. We mourn them,” Polis said while speaking to reporters afterward at the site.

Polis, who spoke earlier in the day to relatives of those killed as well as the injured, wore a gay pride ribbon pinned to the zipper of his puffy jacket. The Democrat, who became the first openly gay man elected governor in the U.S. in 2018, said he was concerned about rhetoric associating mainly transgender people with grooming and pedophilia and feared it could “inspire acts against the LGBTQ community.”

But he was also optimistic about the future of the club, a sanctuary for the LGBTQ community in the mostly conservative city of 480,000, located about 70 miles (110 kilometers) south of Denver.

“Club Q will be back and the community will be back,” he said.

The attacker opened fire Nov. 19 with a semiautomatic rifle inside the gay nightclub before being subdued by patrons and arrested by police who arrived within minutes, authorities have said.

The motive remains under investigation and one person is in custody.

Anderson Lee Aldrich, 22, was being held without bond on suspicion of murder and hate crimes. Aldrich was arrested at the club after being stopped and beaten by patrons.

Hate crime charges would require proving that the shooter was motivated by bias, such as against the victims’ actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.

Prosecutors have not yet filed formal charges against Aldrich, who is nonbinary and uses they/them pronouns, according to court filings by his lawyers.

Aldrich was arrested last year after a relative reported Aldrich was threatening her with a homemade bomb and other weapons, according to authorities.

Ring doorbell video obtained by The Associated Press shows Aldrich arriving at their mother’s front door with a big black bag the day of the 2021 bomb threat, telling her the police were nearby and adding, “This is where I stand. Today I die.”

Authorities at the time said no explosives were found.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Colorado governor visits shooting site as community heals