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The man who stopped the Colorado Springs shooting suspect hosts a fundraiser


The city of Colorado Springs is rallying around the LGBTQ community after the deadly mass shooting at a gay nightclub there earlier this month. Colorado Public Radio's Dan Boyce takes us to events raising money for victims and others.


DAN BOYCE, BYLINE: The small Atrevida Beer Company is packed with people lining up to buy drinks. It's donating a dollar per beer to the LGBTQ+ Resource Center at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs, the owner's alma mater.

RICHARD FIERRO: This was a moment for us that just blew us away. There's no way we would have expected the community to come out like this.

BOYCE: The owner is Richard Fierro. He's the Army veteran who attacked the Club Q shooter, stopping the bloodshed. This fundraiser was on the calendar well before the nightclub shooting.

FIERRO: We're trying to make something happen, you know, just like everybody else does with their business.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Next. What can I get for you guys?

BOYCE: Taps run out as servers sell beer after beer. Colorado Governor Jared Polis is there as a local credit union gives Fierro its first-ever Community Advocate Award, complete with a $50,000 check.

FIERRO: OK, guys. Thank you. I don't know what else say.


BOYCE: The shooting the night of November 19 left five dead and at least 19 wounded. Pride flags now hang from businesses all along the city's downtown, including a 25-foot one draped over the front of City Hall.

WHITLEY HADLEY: It shows we have a community here.

BOYCE: Whitley Hadley is the director of that LGBTQ Resource Center at the university. Colorado Springs is famously conservative, culturally dominated by big evangelical organizations. Hadley grew up here, and she says it's more nuanced than that. This city is diverse.

HADLEY: And unfortunately, tragedy brings that to light. But we are here. We exist, and we'll continue to exist in Colorado Springs.

JOHN SUTHERS: I've lived here all my life. I'm a conservative. I've never felt that that defined the community.

BOYCE: Mayor John Suthers wants residents to give emotional and financial support to the Club Q victims, some of whom remain in the hospital. He says he hopes residents show support regardless of ideology. And he's also asking for a cooldown in the rhetoric surrounding LGBTQ issues.

SUTHERS: Yes, we have some differences about sacramental marriage and stuff like that, but for gosh sakes, that is no dividing line in terms of, you know, love for fellow human beings.


BOYCE: Lulu's Downstairs, a bar not too far away, is also hosting a fundraiser for victims of the shooting. It has that feel of an old big-city jazz club. Black-and-white posters of the five killed adorn the walls. People bid in a silent auction for colorful cakes and other crafts.

WYATT KENT: And I had given Daniel a hug and a kiss, told him I loved him no more than probably seconds before it happened. And this is something that's very personal to me because...

BOYCE: Wyatt Kent speaks into a microphone from a low lit stage. His boyfriend, Daniel Aston, was shot to death at Club Q. They were there with Richard Fierro's family to celebrate Kent's birthday.

KENT: I was turning 23 years old.

BOYCE: Kent looks into the light of his phone, reading a poem Daniel had written for him.

KENT: (Reading) There's a beautiful boy with his arms out, facing the wind out of the valley and the clay rock. He's wishing the world would notice him. He's wishing the world would know him. I'm wishing for more clouds, so he can point to the sky and tell me which objects he thinks they look like.

BOYCE: Daniel had told him this New Year's he was going to whisk him away to a little white wedding chapel in Las Vegas to get married.

For NPR News, I'm Dan Boyce in Colorado Springs. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Dan Boyce moved to the Inside Energy team at Rocky Mountain PBS in 2014, after five years of television and radio reporting in his home state of Montana. In his most recent role as Montana Public Radio’s Capitol Bureau Chief, Dan produced daily stories on state politics and government.