‘Safe space’ shattered: Colorado Springs shooting witnesses, family speaks

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Club Q, an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs, Colorado was a place for people to embrace their identities free of judgment, clubgoers told reporters.

When gunfire erupted in the club Saturday, Nov. 19, Club Q performer Wyatt Kent was celebrating his 23rd birthday. He told ABC News that two people fell on top of him. A woman had been shot in the chest and “passed away on top of me,” he said.

Kent was engaged to Daniel Aston, who was killed in the shooting and was there to celebrate Kent’s birthday: “There wasn’t a thing I didn’t like about him. Everything was so good. He was smart, he was funny, he was talented.”

Another witness, Joshua Thurman, was dancing right by the DJ booth. When he heard the gunshots, they weren’t immediately followed by screams, so he thought it was the music and he kept dancing.

When Thurman saw the flash of a gun, that’s when he and others ran to a dressing room to hide for their lives.

PHOTO: Joshua Thurman, of Colorado Springs, reacts the morning after a mass shooting at Club Q, an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs, Colorado, on Nov. 20, 2022. Thurman was in the club at the time of the shooting.

Joshua Thurman, of Colorado Springs, reacts the morning after a mass shooting at Club Q, an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs, Colorado, on Nov. 20, 2022. Thurman was in the club at the time of the shooting. At least five people were killed and 18 wounded in a mass shooting at an LGBTQ nightclub in the US city of Colorado Springs, police said on Nov. 20, 2022.

Jason Connolly/AFP via Getty Images

Watch Colorado Gov. Jared Polis discuss the deadly shooting at an LGBTQ nightclub today on “The View.”

At least five people were killed and dozens were injured in a late night shooting on Nov. 19, the eve of Transgender Day of Remembrance, which honors the memory of transgender people who were victims of discriminatory violence.

The suspect is facing five counts of murder and five counts of bias-motivated crime causing bodily injury, which is Colorado’s hate crime law.

To Thurman, Club Q has been a place of solace and community.

“As a Black kid, you know, it’s taboo to be gay,” Thurman told ABC affiliate KRDO reporters. “Coming here, this is one of the first places that I felt accepted to be who I am. I became a go-go dancer. A lot of people got their start here. A lot of performers, drag queens. It’s supposed to be a safe space and the community shouldn’t have to go through something like this.”

Thurman couldn’t make sense of the tragedy, in which he knew several of the victims. He tearfully paused the interview with reporters, calling out “why?”

“You’ve harmed us in a way that I don’t know how we can bounce back from this,” Thurman said, to the assailant. “What can we do? We can rebuild. We can come together, we can do vigils, we can raise money, but that’s not gonna bring back those five people that lost their lives.”

Sabrina Aston, Aston’s mother, fondly remembers her son as someone who “lit up a room.”

PHOTO: Sabrina Aston looks at childhood photos of her 28-year-old son, Daniel Aston, in her home in Colorado Springs, Colo., on Sunday, Nov. 20, 2022. Daniel was one of five people killed when a gunman opened fire in a gay nightclub in Colorado Springs.

Sabrina Aston looks at childhood photos of her 28-year-old son, Daniel Aston, in her home in Colorado Springs, Colo., on Sunday, Nov. 20, 2022. Daniel Aston was one of five people killed when a gunman opened fire in a gay nightclub in Colorado Springs on Saturday night.

Thomas Peipert/AP

“It’s just a nightmare that you can’t wake up from,” said Aston in an interview with The Associated Press. She said her son had moved to Colorado Springs two years ago and Club Q was the first job he had in the area bartending, and began to “put on shows” while working at the bar.

“He had crazy wigs and outfits and he would jump across the stage and he could slide on his knees,” Aston said. “He was quite entertaining, everyone started hooting and hollering.”

To those against the LGBTQ community, Aston said “they don’t hurt anybody. They’re just normal folk.”

Aston said she believed the attack was a hate crime and is urging legislators to take action against the violence that took her son.

“I don’t know what action we need to do, but we need to … get it out there,” she said.