Reports of the mass shooting in a gay nightclub in Colorado over the weekend brought to mind the 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting in Florida. While Saturday night's attack in Colorado Springs has left five dead, authorities say the total may have been closer to the Pulse toll of 49 if not for the actions of patrons in Club Q. Mayor John Suthers says one clubgoer grabbed a handgun from the shooter, hit him with it, and subdued him, reports the New York Times. He was still pinning the gunman to the ground when police arrived, says the mayor. “Had that individual not intervened this could have been exponentially more tragic,” Suthers tells the AP.
The club's owners, meanwhile, say surveillance video shows that at least one other patron helped. “One customer took down the gunman and was assisted by another,” said co-owner Matthew Haynes. “He saved dozens and dozens of lives," added Haynes, referring to the first customer. "Stopped the man cold. Everyone else was running away, and he ran toward him.” Police shared a similar sentiment: "At least two heroic people confronted and fought with the suspect and were able to stop the suspect from continuing to kill (and) harm others," said Colorado Springs Police Chief Adrian Vasquez, per the Colorado Springs Gazette. "We owe them a great debt of thanks."
The AP reports that the gunman used an AR-15-style automatic weapon in the attack, but he also was apparently carrying the handgun, along with additional ammunition magazines. He entered the club and "immediately started shooting at people, as he moved farther inside," Vasquez said. In addition to those killed, at least 25 people were injured, though some of those injuries were not from gunshots but from the chaos of people fleeing. One focus of the investigation will be how the 22-year-old suspect managed to have guns despite a troubled history—including an alleged bomb threat against his mother—that seemingly should have brought him attention him under the state's red flag laws. (Read more mass shootings stories.)