Warning: Descriptions of the Club Q shooting scene may be distressing to some readers.
(EL PASO COUNTY, Colo.) — Witness testimonies revealed gruesome details of a shooting that occurred at a gay nightclub in Colorado Springs during a preliminary hearing for the suspected Club Q shooter on Wednesday, Feb. 22.
The alleged shooter was present for their trial inside a packed courtroom surrounded by victims’ families. Tears were seen being wiped away along with loved ones wearing sweatshirts with photos of victims printed on their backs to show support.
In December 2022, the alleged Club Q shooter was charged with 305 counts, including First Degree Murder with Intent and Deliberation, First Degree Murder with Extreme Indifference, Attempted Murder with Intent and Deliberation and Bias Motivated Crimes.
Witness Testimony – Officer Connor Wallick
The first witness to stand was Officer Connor Wallick with the Colorado Springs Police Department (CSPD). According to his testimony, he was the first officer to respond to a 911 call for an active shooter that came in through his radio. He was told the suspect was wearing body armor and had an AR-15-style rifle.
Upon arrival, Officer Wallick said his first priority was to have the suspect in custody to prevent further public endangerment before he could render aid to those injured. As he and two other officers continued to move through the dark areas of the nightclub, Officer Wallick saw a man matching the suspect description being held down by a bystander who is believed to be Richard Fierro.
The suspect was commanded multiple times to comply with officers but refused. They claimed that the bystander who was holding them down was the actual shooter. The suspect also told officers that the shooter “was hiding.” According to Officer Wallick, when the bystander yelled for help, the suspect would yell simultaneously accusing the bystander of being the shooter.
Officer Wallick physically pointed out the suspect in the courtroom during the trial. The first exhibit shown to the court was a document that confirmed Officer Wallick reviewed his own body-worn camera footage to support his statements.
Witness Testimony – Detective Jason Gasper
The second witness to testify was CSPD Detective Jason Gasper, who is currently assigned to the Violent Crimes and Homicide unit. He was tasked with responding to the Club Q shooting as a scene detective to oversee the processing and collection of evidence, which included video surveillance. Gasper said he arrived at Club Q at approximately 2 a.m. but did not begin documenting evidence until approximately 10:30 a.m.
Exhibits two through 44 submitted as evidence to the court were photographs of the crime scene. One picture showed a 2005 golden Toyota Highlander registered to the suspect, parked in front of the nightclub. Another showed the inside of the suspect’s vehicle, which contained cartridges and a black hat with a red cell phone duct taped around the brim.
The suspect’s Colorado driver’s license was found on the street near the alley by the club. Other photos depicted empty magazines and shell casings consistent of an AR-15-style rifle strewn across a bloody floor. The court was also presented with pictures of victims who were killed during the onslaught.
A search warrant for the suspect’s home revealed shooting targets with bullet holes. Police also found parts of a rifle and ammunition along with receipts from firearm purchases.
During cross-examination, the defense stated that “it is not illegal to purchase firearms in Colorado or assemble firearms. It is not illegal to own ammunition…” The defense also stated it is common practice to use targets for shooting practice.
According to a statement from a church member who interacted with the suspect and the suspect’s mother, the alleged shooter is described as a “big ol’ gentle giant kind of kid,” who did not exhibit any violent behavior or threatening outbursts. When asked about the suspect’s mental health, the church member said they believed both the mother and the suspect suffer from anxiety and depression-related symptoms.
The defense also noted there is no evidence of hate speech or slurs being targeted toward members of the LGBTQ+ community. According to the defense, no manifesto expressing a desire to hurt those at Club Q was ever found.
Witness Testimony – Detective Ashton Gardner
To conclude the first half of Wednesday’s court proceedings, CSPD Detective Ashton Gardner was brought to the stand. Gardner was assigned as a victim detective tasked with death notifications and contacting injured victims. The court heard in detail the extent of victim injuries, many of whom were immediately taken into surgery following the shooting, per Gardner.
According to Gardner, Thomas James was the first victim who attempted to subdue the shooter. James had taken “the hardest thing he could find,” which was a metal bucket and attacked the shooter. During the fight, James received burns from grabbing the barrel of the gun while trying to disarm the suspect.
James was also shot at least two times receiving gunshot wounds to the torso and diaphragm, per Gardner. The detective said after the fight, other patrons came to assist with subduing the suspect.
“When police arrived, James gave up his ambulance to another victim,” said Gardner.
Witness Testimony – Detective Rebecca Joins
After court recess, CSPD Detective Rebecca Joins was called to the stand as a fourth witness. Joins said all Club Q victims who died of their injuries were killed from multiple gunshot wounds, their manner of death being homicide, according to autopsy reports. Joins also confirmed that a note handwritten by the suspect read, “Please relieve me of my own fate, I’m growing in my own wake. How long must I wait for you to rid me of this hate?”
4th Judicial District Attorney (DA) Michael Allen asked Joins about a website where the alleged Club Q shooter was an administrator uploading videos that were described as “neo-nazi, white supremacist, terrorist training type of videos,” by Joins. Interviews with associates of the suspect stated he was “obsessed with homicides and homicidal videos.”
A cell phone recovered from the scene found that the suspect “attempted to or was contemplating” live streaming the shooting to “emulate,” the videos uploaded to the website, according to the DA. These claims stemmed from records of the suspect launching a live-streaming app multiple times shortly before the shooting.
The suspect was also accused of sharing a photo of a rifle scope centered on a gay pride flag on their Discord account, an application commonly used by the gaming community. Associates of the suspect also claimed there was no indication that the alleged shooter was non-binary, as they had claimed following the shooting, according to Joins.
Another point of contention brought up by DA Allen was how the suspect obtained weapons and parts of firearms. According to DA Allen, weapons were purchased illegally from a private manufacturer that did not require normal background checks.
During an additional cross-examination, the defense displayed more than ten pictures of medications prescribed to the alleged shooter. The prescriptions were for medications that treated schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder, anti-psychotic medication, depression, heroin addiction, mood stabilizers, and more.
The alleged shooter grew up in a tumultuous home life, according to the defense, who referenced a previous incident where the suspect’s mother allegedly claimed she would take her own life and pepper sprayed her son. During an interview with the suspect at the time, officers were told, “they did not feel safe inside the home, but would go back in any way.”
Before the shooting, the defense confirmed the suspect had consumed, “six tabs of Xanax, three Adderall, four grams of cocaine and two grams of free-based cocaine,” implying the suspect was not entirely aware of his actions.
While in the hospital after the shooting, the suspect told detectives, “you guys are the only people that worried about me in my life… over the many years of hiding away and being abused.”
DA Allen proceeded to counter the defense by stating the alleged shooter appeared to know right from wrong, according to Joins. The suspect also wore body armor to commit the shooting, carrying more than 100 grams of ammunition. In addition, the alleged shooter was also in possession of a hand-drawn map of the layout of the nightclub, which was confirmed by Joins.
Check back with FOX21 News for more updates on court proceedings for the alleged Club Q shooter, which will continue on Thursday, Feb. 23.
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