An attacker opened fire in a gay nightclub late Saturday, killing five people and wounding 18, officials said. The club said the suspect was subdued by patrons.
Authorities received a report of a shooting at Club Q at 11:57 p.m. and responded within minutes, said Lt. Pamela Castro of the Colorado Springs Police Department.
The violence is the sixth mass killing this month and comes in a year when the nation was shaken by the deaths of 21 in a school shooting in Uvalde, Texas.
Castro had few details beyond the number of dead and wounded. She said the suspect was injured but didn’t know how and that the FBI was on the scene and assisting.
The police department planned a news conference for 8 a.m. (10 a.m. EST) on the investigation.
The latest incident occurred as anti-gay rhetoric has intensified by extremists. In a statement, Club Q termed the shooting a hate attack.
“Club Q is devastated by the senseless attack on our community,” the club posted on its Facebook page. It said its prayers were with victims and families, adding: “We thank the quick reactions of heroic customers that subdued the gunman and ended this hate attack.”
Club Q is a gay and lesbian nightclub that features a “Drag Diva Drag Show” on Saturdays, according to its website.
In a separate statement early Sunday morning, Gov. Jared Polis called the shooting “horrific, sickening, and devastating.”
“I have spoken with (Colorado Springs) Mayor John Suthers and made it clear that every state resource is available to local law enforcement in Colorado Springs,” Polis wrote. “We are eternally grateful for the brave individuals who blocked the gunman likely saving lives in the process and for the first responders who responded swiftly to this horrific shooting. Colorado stands with our LGTBQ community and everyone impacted by this tragedy as we mourn together.”
GLAAD — the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Discrimination — called the attack “unspeakable.”
“You can draw a straight line from the false and vile rhetoric about LGBTQ people spread by extremists and amplified across social media, to the nearly 300 anti-LGBTQ bills introduced this year, to the dozens of attacks on our community like this one,” GLAAD’s president and CEO, Sarah Kate Ellis, said. “That this mass shooting took place on the eve of on Transgender Day of Remembrance, when we honor the memory of the trans people killed the prior year, deepens the trauma and tragedy for all in the LGBTQ community.
In addition to the drag show, Club Q’s Facebook page said planned entertainment included a “punk and alternative show” preceding a birthday dance party, with a Sunday “all ages brunch.”
Colorado Springs is a city of about 480,000 located about 70 miles (112 kilometers) south of Denver that is home to the U.S. Air Force Academy, as well as Focus on the Family, a prominent evangelical Christian ministry.
In November 2015, three people were killed and eight wounded at a Planned Parenthood clinic in the city when authorities say a man opened fire because he wanted to wage “war” on the clinic because it performed abortions.
The motive behind Saturday’s shooting was not immediately known but it brought back memories of the 2016 massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, that killed 49 people. And it occurred in a state that has experienced several notorious mass killings, including at Columbine High School in 1999, a movie theater in suburban Denver in 2012 and at a Boulder supermarket last year.
In June, 31 members of the neo-Nazi group Patriot Front were arrested in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, and charged with conspiracy to riot at a Pride event. Experts warned that extremist groups could see anti-gay rhetoric as a call to action.
The previous month, a fundamentalist Idaho pastor told his small Boise congregation that gay, lesbian and transgender people should be executed by the government, which lined up with similar sermons from a Texas fundamentalist pastor.
There have been 523 mass killings since 2006 resulting in 2,727 deaths as of Nov. 19, according to The Associated Press/USA Today database on mass killings in the U.S.