COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — With the sun set over Colorado’s Front Range, the darkened Colorado Springs strip mall that has long been home to Club Q glowed with the flicker of candles and flashes of news cameras Sunday night. 

Couples holding hands and parents with babies bundled in fleece blankets shuffled along where a makeshift memorial of cellophane-wrapped flowers and handwritten notes had been steadily growing outside the LGBTQ club since early Sunday. 

Authorities said a 22-year-old gunman opened fire with a semiautomatic rifle inside the Colorado Springs nightclub Saturday night, killing five people and leaving 17 others injured with gunshot wounds. At least seven were in critical condition, authorities said. Some were hurt trying to flee, and it was unclear if all of the victims were shot, a police spokesperson said.

According to authorities, he was later subdued by “heroic” patrons and arrested by police who arrived within minutes.

Shianna Ray, 27, said that as members of Colorado Springs’ LGBTQ+ community, she and her girlfriend, Kasside Butterfass, 27, wanted to come by and show their support for Club Q Sunday night. By then, it had been nearly 12 hours since the couple awoke to a flurry of calls and text messages.

Ray — who frequented Club Q and used to go-go dance there — said she knew two people who were in the club at the time of the shooting. They both survived.

When news of the shooting broke, Butterfass said one thought came to mind: “Why?”

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‘Makes me feel angry along with sadness’

Former Colorado Springs resident Terry Miles also made her way to Club Q Sunday night, laying one of the few bouquets of flowers she could find at a local Trader Joe’s on the memorial’s growing mound. 

“I just don’t know if I have any words right now. Just emotions,” Miles said.

One of the mourners who visited a makeshift memorial at the scene of the attack, Joseph Reininger, has lived in Colorado Springs since 1972 and said he brought flowers because he supports the LGBTQ-plus community.

“They are sweet people and I come to the Q for the drag shows. I love the people,” Reininger said. The tragedy “makes me feel angry, along with sadness.”

People gather around a memorial Sunday for the victims of Saturday's fatal shooting at Club Q in Colorado Springs, Colorado

Michael Travis, wearing a state of Texas police chaplain’s uniform, visited the scene to play “Taps” on a trumpet. “We all feel shock and grief, so I came out to comfort everybody,” Travis said.

Travis said he has visited Club Q often and “this is a fantastic place that makes it safe for everybody in the LGBTQ-plus community. It was a place where you could come and forget about work and it was a home to everyone.”

“We are not even safe in our own home. Hopefully this is an isolated incident,” Travis added.

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Among those paying their respects outside Club Q on Sunday afternoon was Colleen Bunkers, who wore a sign around her neck that read: “Free hugs from the mom of a trans son. We love you.”