A man shot seven times crawled over a fence after escaping Club Q. His friend played dead as blood spurted from shrapnel lodged in his arm. Another man tried to get up to help others without realizing that he had been shot in the leg. The brother of two shooting victims searched for his siblings at nearby hospitals.
These are just a few of the stories of those injured at the LGBTQ dance club in Colorado Springs, where a shooter killed at least five people and wounded 19 others on Saturday night.
Survivors, sharing the harrowing details of the attack, expressed gratitude for escaping with their lives, but also anger that the LGBTQ community had been targeted.
Barrett Hudson, 31, was shot seven times in the back before escaping Club Q through the back exit. He climbed onto an outdoor table and crawled over a fence to reach a group of people for help.
“I shouldn’t be here. I 100% shouldn’t be alive,” Hudson said Tuesday in a video call from his hospital bed. “But somehow, by the grace of God, I’m here.”
Waiting for an ambulance in the cool Colorado Springs night air, Hudson, fearing he wouldn’t make it, called his father.
“I told him that I loved him. I told him I had been shot,” she said, her voice breaking as she began to cry. “I wanted, for my peace of mind, to speak to him one last time.”
Before the shooting, it was a normal Saturday night for Hudson and his friend, Isaiah Aponte, who went to the club together. But less than an hour after he arrived, Hudson said he heard something like balloons popping mixed with the rumbling bass of the music.
That’s when Hudson noticed a door to the club had closed and saw someone pointing an AR-15-style pistol at a man with his hands up. The gunman “just butchered him in front of me,” Hudson said, and they all started running. As Hudson fled, the gunman hit him with seven bullets in the back.
Miraculously, all the bullets missed her vital organs and she will be able to walk, Hudson doctors told her. But the road to recovery will be long, and Hudson said he was in terrible pain. As he spoke, he would occasionally stand up to stretch to ease the throbbing pain or close his eyes, tilt his head back, and pause.
“I am very glad to be alive,” he said. “I am very lucky”.
Aponte, 24, saw Hudson being shot while running, he said Tuesday in an interview from a hospital in Aurora, Colorado. “I thought he was lost, because he was shot,” she added.
An Air Force veteran, Aponte said he had been separated from Hudson in the chaos. He said he overturned a table and lay on the floor to cover himself, using one arm to protect his vital organs.
That’s when the gunman turned to “shoot directly at all the people who were on the dance floor and were running,” Aponte said. “He ended up shooting across the table and I ended up with a bunch of shrapnel stuck in my right forearm.”
The shrapnel “is going to stay stuck in my arm for the rest of my life now,” he said.
As blood flowed from his wounds, Aponte said he pretended to be dead as he watched Richard Fierro, an Army veteran, and others chase the gunman, eventually knocking him to the ground and hitting him with his own pistol.
James and Charlene Slaugh
James Slaugh, 33, called police as he, his sister Charlene Slaugh, her boyfriend and another friend were hiding after all four were shot: James in the arm, Charlene in the abdomen, James’s boyfriend in the leg and the friend on the hip.
They had gone to Club Q, where James Slaugh met his boyfriend eight months earlier, to cheer up his sister after a breakup: She remains in critical but stable condition, he said from his hospital bed on Tuesday.
James Slaugh said uninjured patrons handed out rags to the wounded after the shooting.
“I got a hug from one and he said, ‘You were shot in the arm. But don’t worry, you’ll be safe, you’re alive, you’re fine,’ and he gave me this kiss on the forehead. And that made me cry,” said.
In the ensuing chaos, James Slaugh said he was separated from his sister and was not heard by authorities as he yelled, “That’s my sister! That’s my sister,” as she was led away. Instead, he was taken to a different hospital in a police car.
Mark Slaugh, James’s brother, woke up before dawn Sunday to text messages in the family group chat saying his brothers had been shot. He quickly drove to Colorado Springs from his Denver home. He found his brother in one hospital, but his sister was listed under Jane Doe in another.
Mark Slaugh said that it felt like “your stomach had sunk to the bottom of your soul”.
“My experience is just: ‘No, please be okay. I hope you are well. I hope they’re not dead. I hope they can recover from this. I hope they can still achieve their goals and objectives in life,’” he said. “It is very, very scary to think that someone has decided to take everything from her, take away her future.”
He said they were finally able to ID Charlene from a tattoo, but he couldn’t see her for hours because security had locked down her flat.
At the hospital, Charlene Slaugh had a collapsed lung inflated and underwent eight-hour emergency surgery in which “they had to put her insides back together. They removed parts of her colon, her intestines, her inner workings,” she said Mark Slaugh. , who started a GoFundMe to help her siblings cover medical costs.
The bullet that struck James Slaugh shattered the bone in his arm, requiring a steel rod to be surgically added from below the shoulder to above the elbow, he said in an interview after finishing his first round of physical therapy. There will be several more months of therapy ahead to fully regain movement in his arm and hand, he said.
But it hasn’t depressed James Slaugh, even though this fulfills his fear that such a shooting could happen “because the LGBTQ+ community is targeted.”
“I’m not going to back down,” he said, noting the myriad of compassionate messages he’s received. “We’re all here for each other. And the world is starting to show that. So no matter how many bullets someone throws, there’s going to be a lot more love, and that’s a lot stronger than any bullet.”
Jerecho Loveall, 30, said he was still trying to deal with his emotions after surviving the event. He recalled how he had just sat down to take a break from dancing when suddenly “all you hear is gunshots, rapid gunshots.” Then “glass started flying and I hit the ground.”
“I’m pretty sure I’m still in shock and still can’t process everything that’s happened,” he said.
While Loveall couldn’t fully see the shooter, he did see the gunman wearing “a brown protective vest and then the barrel of the gun flashing rapidly.”
When “the shots died down,” Loveall said he tried to get up to make sure his friends and other people he knew at the club were okay. It was then that he realized that he had been shot.
“I was worried about the people I was there with and the people I spent my time with growing up there,” said Loveall, who has been going to the club for more than a decade.
Club Q, many of the victims said, was a safe haven, one of the few Colorado Springs had to offer to members of the LGBTQ community.
This attack has now threatened an essential oasis, Loveall said, and it’s only because this gunman chose to target people he didn’t know or understand.
“You don’t need to take lives or cause pain and suffering to people that you don’t know, that you don’t understand,” he said. “It’s unnecessary violence, and we’re not going to get anywhere by spreading hate.”