For survivors of Colorado Springs LGBTQ club shooting, hope springs from chaos
A man who has frequented Club Q for decades had just opened a tab at the bar when he was shot in the back. Another man was about to leave the LGBTQ club in Colorado Springs, Colorado, with his band when he heard a ‘pop, pop, pop’ and was shot in the arm – then saw his boyfriend and his sister fall to the ground.
They are among 17 people who were shot and injured on Saturday when a 22-year-old man engaged in a fatal shooting at Club Q, a well-known LGBTQ club. On Tuesday, they shared the horror of seeing their loved ones shot down in front of them, as well as the hope they felt as people helped each other through the chaos.
Ed Sanders, 63, said he queued at the bar, walked forward and gave the bartender his credit card when he was hit in the back – just between the shoulder blades. Startled, he turned to look at the shooter, only to be hit in the thigh again as another volley of shots was fired.
« I fell. And everyone else fell, » Sanders said in video statements released Tuesday by UCHealth Memorial Hospital Central. « It was very traumatic. I protected another woman with my coat. There was a lot of chaos. »
James Slaugh said he, his boyfriend and his sister were about to leave the club when, « all of a sudden we just hear ‘pop, pop, pop.’ arm behind. »
Slaugh, who spoke to The Associated Press from his hospital bed, said he saw others around him fall, including his boyfriend, who was shot in the leg, and his wife. sister, who was shot in 13 places.
He quickly called the police, heard several more shots, then nothing. The scariest part of the shooting, Slaugh said, was not knowing if the shooter would shoot again.
« I want to be resilient »
Five people were killed in the shooting, which stopped after the shooter was disarmed by customers.
Police are still investigating the attack and the man has not been formally charged. Police said he was armed with multiple firearms, including an AR-15 type semi-automatic rifle, and that possible hate crimes are being considered.
« I want to be resilient. I’m a survivor, » Sanders said. « I’m not going to be taken away by a sick person. »
Sanders has been a patron of Club Q for 20 years and even went to the club’s opening night decades ago. He was wearing a hospital gown and had an oxygen tube through his nose in the video recorded by the hospital.
Ed Sanders was at Club Q on its opening night 20 years ago. He was also there on Saturday evening when a gunman opened fire. He shares his story as he recovers in hospital.
Ed is currently unavailable for additional interviews.
He said after the fatal shooting at Florida’s Pulse nightclub in 2016, Sanders thought about what he would do if something similar happened at Club Q – but he never imagined it would come true.
« I’m smiling now because I’m happy to be alive, » Sanders said. « I dodged a major event in my life and walked through it, and that’s part of who I am as a survivor. »
Sanders knew of many victims, including the « lady at the door » and two bartenders who died. Sanders said that after the shooting, people who weren’t hit were helping each other « like a family would. »
Sanders said the shot in the back missed vital organs but broke a rib. He said he now had a concave wound in his back and would need skin grafts. Sanders was also shot in the thigh and said « it was the most blood ».
« I think this incident underscores the fact that LGBT people need to be loved, » he said.
Customers took action after the attack
For Slaugh, Club Q was a place he felt safe after coming out as gay at 24. It was there that he met his partner, Jancarlos Del Valle, eight months ago, and it was there that they took his sister, Charlene, on Saturday. night to cheer him up over a recent breakup, as well as the death of their mother from COVID-19 a year ago.
Slaugh said that after the shooter was subdued, the club instantly became a community again. Customers grabbed paper towels to try and stop the bleeding. A man told Slaugh he would be fine and kissed him on the forehead.
« It gave me so much reassurance, » he said. « That hope stayed there. »
Del Valle and James were rushed to one hospital and Charlene, who had more serious injuries, was taken to another. James said he didn’t find out what happened to his sister until the next day.
A community of support has formed around the Slaughs, including a GoFundMe campaign to pay medical bills. Messages poured in from all over the world.
“To be shot, to be a victim of all of this – it left me with more hope than anything, especially with everyone coming together,” he said.
« Now is not the time to be afraid. This is not the time to let in a horrible person. This is the time to come together. »