Club Q shooting victims identified as red flag law questions linger
A makeshift memorial near the Club Q nightclub continues to grow on Nov. 21, 2022 in Colorado Springs, Colorado. (Photo by Scott Olson / Getty Images)
Colorado Springs police on Monday released the names of the five people killed in Saturday’s mass shooting at Club Q, an LGBTQ-friendly nightclub.
“Too often, society loses track of the victims of these sad and tragic events in all the talk about the suspect,” said Chief Adrian Vasquez of the Colorado Springs Police Department in a Monday afternoon press conference.
Patrons at Club Q in East Colorado Springs were attending a drag performance shortly before midnight on Saturday when authorities say a man entered the club and began firing a rifle. Five people were killed, while 17 others suffered gunshot wounds and one person suffered an injury that was not gun-related, according to updated information released Monday.
The five deceased victims identified Monday were: Kelly Loving, Daniel Aston, Derrick Rump, Ashley Paugh and Raymond Green Vance.
Vasquez also identified Thomas James and Richard Fierro as the two individuals inside Club Q whose “heroic actions” stopped the shooter and potentially prevented further harm.
In an interview with the New York Times, Fierro, an Army veteran, said he was attending Saturday’s drag show with his wife and daughter, who were both injured in the shooting. He described going “into combat mode” when the shooting started, racing across the room to tackle and beat the shooter.
Online court records on Monday showed the 22-year-old male suspect in the shooting was arrested on suspicion of five counts of first-degree murder and five hate-crime charges, but he has not been formally charged and law enforcement officials said Monday that possible motives remain under investigation. He remains hospitalized with his injuries.
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Fourth Judicial District Attorney Michael Allen said that an arrest warrant and probable cause affidavit in the case will be unsealed in the coming days. The suspect will make his first appearance in court when he has been medically cleared, after which prosecutors will decide on formal charges.
“It’s important that if we have enough evidence to support bias-motivated charges, to charge that,” Allen said, referring to offenses under Colorado’s hate-crime statute. “If there’s enough evidence to support that in this case, when we get to the formal filing charges we will absolutely be including those charges.”
Red flag law questions
Officials also responded to growing questions about the suspect’s history with law enforcement and whether Colorado’s “red flag” gun law could have been used to prevent the shooting. The law allows law enforcement agencies or third parties to ask courts to issue an extreme risk protection order against an individual who may pose a threat to themselves or others, allowing their firearms to be temporarily seized.
The suspect in the Club Q shooting was arrested last year on kidnapping and menacing charges in connection with threats he allegedly made involving guns and homemade explosives, but charges were later dropped.
Allen said during Monday’s press conference that he was limited in discussing the case by Colorado’s “very restrictive sealing laws,” including a 2019 change that requires cases to be sealed if they are dismissed for any reason. But prosecutors could file a motion to unseal the prior case as part of court proceedings in the shooting case, he said.
An AP analysis found earlier this year that Colorado law enforcement agencies, and the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office in particular, have used the law at a far lower rate than many other jurisdictions with similar laws nationwide. In advance of the passage of the state’s red flag law in 2019, county commissioners passed a resolution declaring El Paso a “Second Amendment preservation county” and vowing not to comply with the law.
Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers, a Republican, cautioned against drawing conclusions about the 2021 incident and the applicability of the red flag law, but he affirmed his support for its use.
“My view of the red flag law is that it was passed by the Legislature, it’s the law in Colorado, and law enforcement agencies in the appropriate circumstances should take advantage of it,” Suthers said. “That’s my view of it. I don’t run a law enforcement agency, but that would be my advice.”
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