LGBTQ+ community members in Colorado Springs often sought refuge in the comfort of their local LGBTQ+ nightclub, Club Q. It was a place where they could perform and share space in a pure embrace of their freedom with boundless confidence. When the suspect, identified as 22-year-old Anderson Lee Aldrich, allegedly entered the venue on Saturday, killing at least five individuals and wounding 25 others, he breached the community’s barrier of safety and protection found inside the club.
Daniel Aston, 28, and Derrick Rump, 38, worked alongside one another at Club Q as bartenders, taking on the responsibility of not only ensuring that patrons had a good time but that they also had someone looking out for them. One regular, Jessi Hazelwood, recalled to The Denver Post a night when she was allowed to remain safely in the nightclub after hours while she sobered up before heading home.
This is what their community was all about. The nightclub was somewhere that someone like Kelly Loving, 40 — who had been in town for a weekend visit from Denver when she died in the shooting — could stop in and find a familiar escape while exploring the largely conservative city she had been visiting. Somewhere for people like Aston and Rump to not only find themselves but to maintain a space where others could feel safe enough to do the same, knowing most who passed through the front doors possessed a level of unspoken understanding about identity and belonging.
As the identities of the slain victims are revealed, each additional name carries new waves of grief and mourning for the friends and family who knew them and those who sought solace and liberation alongside them on the dancefloor — a staple of release in the LGBTQ+ community. This is the legacy those who recognized the importance of this space are honoring in tributes to the five lives lost.
As the Colorado Springs LGBTQ+ community continues to mourn, an old tweet of Aston’s resurfaced, emphasizing the dire importance of having an outlet like Club Q in the city often defined by its conservative ideologies. “Every single goddamn time I even have the slightest thought of leaving Club Q, someone comes up and tells me ‘You’re the reason I love this bar,’” he wrote back in January. “Or ‘You and Derrick make me feel so safe and welcome here.’”
Aston – the self-proclaimed “Master of Silly Business” had often extended this sense of safety to others simply by existing. “11 years after I decided to stay in the art class I got put in via schedule mistake because another queer person (you) walked in, it’s hard to accept that I’m typing this sitting on the floor where I fell when I saw the news, like a fucking drama queen,” one of Aston’s close friends Jude wrote in a tribute on social media. “I feel like any minute you’ll reply to my text like ‘Yeah, it was crazy. Thankfully I got out okay’ and be totally weirded out over all the rest in power tweets and we’ll both laugh at my expense for freaking out like that. I love you.”
Jude welcomed an audience into her grieving as a testament to the type of person Aston was — and to assure that he doesn’t become one name added to an endlessly expanding list of victims of mass gun violence. “He isn’t made of tragedy,” she wrote. “Don’t make him out to be. Don’t erase how much we all love him.”
In an interview with Associated Press, Aston’s mother, Sabrina Aston, remembered the way “he lit up a room, always smiling, always happy and silly,” adding: “He liked helping the LGBT community.”
Del Lusional, a drag queen who hosted a punk and alternative musical show at Club Q on Saturday, expressed disbelief on Twitter, writing: “Walking through the bar that I call my home and seeing it… like that… I went from being so proud of myself for what I accomplished tonight, to… This. I hate this so much. I hate this so fucking much.” Earlier in the night, Del Lusional shared interactions with both Rump and Aston that weren’t out of the ordinary but that made for characteristically sound goodbyes. “I’m gonna miss walking into the bar and going “WHO LET YOU IN HERE?????’” one tweet about Aston read. “And I’m gonna miss being greeted with his middle finger to my face. So so so much.”
Raymond Green Vance
Raymond Green Vance, 22, was accompanying his girlfriend and her family to celebrate a birthday party at Club Q, according to the Washington Post.
“That was his first time going to the club,” Adriana Vance, his mother, said. “Unfortunately, Raymond was there at the wrong time.”
Green Vance, who was born in Chicago, was a longtime resident of Colorado Springs. He met his girlfriend there and the two had been together since middle school. In 2018, Green Vance graduated from Sand Creek High School and lived at home with his mother and eight-year-old brother. He was working at FedEx and saving for his own place, his mother said.
Vance said that when Green Vance’s father went to prison six years ago, her son “stepped in as the man of the house.”
His loved ones “are still trying to come to terms with the fact he is gone. His absence will leave irreparable heartbreak in countless lives,” the family told the Post.
Living everyone’s nightmare, Tiffany Loving said she was alerted by the F.B.I. that her sister, Kelly Loving, 40, was killed in the gunman’s attack, according to the New York Times. “She was just a loving person,” she shared. Loving’s close friend Natalee Skye Bigham had spoken to her earlier in the night, telling her, “Be safe. I love you,” at the end of their call. For her, the loss cuts to the core of a connection that transcends friendship.
“She was like a trans mother to me,” Bingham explained to the Times, adding that Loving had been in town for a weekend visit from Denver, where she lived. “In the gay community you create your families, so it’s like I lost my real mother almost.”
Ashley Paugh had driven up from La Junta, Colorado to spend Saturday with a friend shopping and grabbing a bite to eat in Colorado Springs, her sister, Stephanie Clark, told NBC News. They planned to end the day with a fun night at Club Q to see a stand-up comedian, Clark said.
Paugh, 35, was a loving mother and wife who was devoted to her 11-year-old daughter and family, said her sister.
“My niece is devastated,” Clark said, adding that her sister “lived for her daughter.”
“Nothing will ever be the same without her,” Clark said. “Right now, I don’t want to laugh. She was a loving, caring person who would do anything for anybody. We’re gonna miss her so much.”
Derrick Rump, who was identified by The Gazette as one of the five victims, was lauded in tribute posts by people who frequented the bars or who had popped in for a visit now and then for his protection of the community. “Loving, supportive, with a heavy hand in his drink pouring, and just a really good listener and would not be afraid to tell you when you were wrong instead of telling you what you wanted to hear, and that was really valuable,” Rump’s friend Anthony Jaramillo told CBS News. “I guess I’m just waiting for someone to be like, ‘Oh, it’s the wrong Derrick.’”
In another tweet, Del Lusional wrote: “Enjoy the stupid moments with your friends. Right before all this, I started singing Hero by Enrique Inglesias to Derrick while he was getting me a drink because he was in a bad mood and it made him laugh cause it was so fucking stupid.”
Del Lusional added: “I’m so so grateful that my last memory of him was making him roll his eyes. I’m so grateful I was on my annoying bullshit that night because my last memories at Q are some of the best.”