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The Colorado Springs mayor reflects on the Club Q shooting

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

We're going to start with the latest information about another horrific act of gun violence in the United States, a shooting at an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs just before midnight last night where five people were killed and at least 25 others were wounded. Police have identified a man named Anderson Lee Aldrich as a suspect, and they say he was quickly confronted by patrons and taken into custody by police. Hours before the attack, Club Q, where the shooting took place, posted on Facebook about a brunch they were planning for this morning to mark Transgender Day of Remembrance, which honors transgender people who have lost their lives because of anti-transgender violence. To this point, though, police have not yet determined or have not yet disclosed a possible motivation, so it isn't clear whether this was a hate crime.

We wanted to learn more about how the community is responding and how the investigation is proceeding, so we're joined now by the mayor of Colorado Springs, John Suthers. Mr. Mayor, thank you so much for taking the time. I know you're dealing with quite a bit today.

JOHN SUTHERS: Well, Michel, thank you for your concern and all the expressions of support we've received from around the country.

MARTIN: And, of course, this is not a call that anyone wants to get. Do you mind if I ask how you're doing?

SUTHERS: Michel, I've been in law enforcement. I've been a district attorney. I've been attorney general and U.S. attorney. And so sadly, events of this nature are not foreign to me, but you never get used to it. And so we're doing what we have to do to rally the community, support these victims and make sure we do this right so that justice is served.

MARTIN: I do want to refer more to your experience as attorney general in just a minute. But before we do, I want to go back to the facts of this event. Can you tell us any more about the investigation? Do we know any more about what motivated this person?

SUTHERS: Well, there's a lot that's still under investigation, including motive. Obviously, we're checking social media. We're checking, you know, his communications with other people and things like that. It certainly has the trappings, Michel, of a hate crime, but it's too early to designate it as such because we - the motive really is a matter of investigation at this point in time. We do know, as you indicated, or I think I heard in an earlier report, that there was heroic action by patrons of these - of this club. Police responded very quickly. The first call came in at 11:57 p.m. Police were there by 12 midnight, within three minutes. This whole incident was over by 12:02. And that was largely because of the intervention of at least one, perhaps additional patrons who heroically took one of the - took a handgun from the individual and hit him with the handgun and disabled him.

MARTIN: I do want to ask you - you mentioned that you have been - you have previously served as attorney general of the state. Almost seven years ago exactly, there was a shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs that left three people dead. I wonder if your time as attorney general and your public service in law enforcement so far has given you some perspective on whether or not you think this area has a problem with crimes motivated by bias.

SUTHERS: Are you talking about nationwide, ours in particular? What is...

MARTIN: I'm talking about the area. I'm just asking that it - you know, it's not a secret that this past election year - and we only have a couple of seconds left - this past election year did see some campaigns that featured and kind of leaned into anti-gay or anti-trans rhetoric.

SUTHERS: Yeah.

MARTIN: And I do wonder if you think that that is a factor here.

SUTHERS: It certainly could.

MARTIN: As briefly as you can.

SUTHERS: We have no ability to say it is at this point in time in this. But you saw what happened in Orlando. It's obviously a matter of tremendous concern. I agree with President Biden's comments about the sort of potential bias crime. And we will do everything we can to determine exactly what the motive was here.

MARTIN: And before we let you go - I have only about 10 seconds left - can you just tell me about how the community is dealing with this today? This is a terrible incident.

SUTHERS: There's community functions already - vigils. I've been to one already. I think there's a couple this evening, and I'm sure there will be several in the days coming. There will be overwhelming public support, including financially, to help these victims.

MARTIN: That was the mayor of Colorado Springs, John Suthers. Mr. Mayor, thank you so much for joining us on such a difficult day.

SUTHERS: Thank you, Michel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Michel Martin is the weekend host of All Things Considered, where she draws on her deep reporting and interviewing experience to dig in to the week's news. Outside the studio, she has also hosted "Michel Martin: Going There," an ambitious live event series in collaboration with Member Stations.
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