Remembering the Colorado Springs shooting victims

Ren Kurgis, left, and Jessie Pacheco leave flowers Sunday at a growing memorial for the victims of the shooting inside Club Q in Colorado Springs. (Matthew Staver)

Some had come to work and others to celebrate a birthday. Some were gay, some straight. Two were transgender and finally living their lives in bodies that felt closer to right.

They had gathered at Club Q, a gay bar in Colorado Springs, on Saturday night because they were in town looking for entertainment, or because that’s where they spent every weekend. The club, a low-slung, single story tucked behind a Subway sandwich shop on a suburban strip six miles from downtown, was more than a gay bar, regulars said. It was a place where people of all ages and backgrounds found community.

Saturday night, five people died and more than a dozen others were wounded after a gunman opened fire. Colorado Springs Police Chief Adrian Vasquez identified Daniel Aston, Kelly Loving, Ashley Paugh, Derrick Rump and Raymond Green Vance as the five who were killed in the tragedy.

Here is what we know so far about those who died in the attack.

Daniel Aston

Among the five people killed in the shooting at Club Q was bartender Daniel Aston.

His mother, Sabrina Aston, said her son’s partner, a drag performer, was behind the bar when the shooting erupted.

Aston, 28, was transgender and raised in the Tulsa suburbs, but he followed his family to Colorado two years ago, finding a job and community at Club Q, his mother said. When he was a child, she said, “I just thought he was going to grow out of it, that he was a tomboy. Then he got really depressed during high school, and he came out to me.”

Sabrina Aston said Nov. 20 that her son Daniel, who was killed in the shooting at an LGBTQ club in Colorado, was “always smiling, always happy and silly.” (Video: The Washington Post)

He started hormone treatments at age 19 while attending Northeastern State University, where he led the LGBTQ student group, she said.

Aston was nervous about the hormone replacement therapy, but she said her son’s doctor reassured her about it. She came to realize “he was a man, always had been, just his body didn’t fit who he was.”

How to help those affected by the Colorado LGBTQ nightclub shooting

A year ago, her son got top surgery, and she remembers how happy he was to go swimming afterward at a family wedding. He was saving money and planned to finish college, which he had left after two years. He wore his hair in a mullet, she said — “like Steve in ‘Stranger Things’ ” — and she often brought people to see him at Club Q, where he recently performed a campy ’80s hair band show.

“We’d bring our friends and family every time they came in town to show off Dan. It’s family-friendly,” she said. Her son took pride in how the shows raised money for a local LGBTQ youth group, like one he had volunteered with in Oklahoma.

“Not many parents go to those shows, but we were king and queen when we went there. They fawned over us — we never had to worry about drinks,” Aston said.

Aston said she and her husband were awakened by a phone call from one of Aston’s friends about 2 a.m. Sunday and rushed to UCHealth Memorial Hospital, which was on lockdown because it was also treating the suspected gunman. The Astons spotted a few other parents of the injured and welcomed them into their car. Eventually, hospital staff ushered the group inside.

By 5 a.m., a detective arrived and told the Astons their son wasn’t at the hospital, that he might be at another facility, and sent them home to wait for news. About 11:30 a.m., she said, “they showed up at the door, and I knew that was not good news.”

She said her son’s body was being held for an autopsy, and it wasn’t clear how soon it would be released.

“I’m still numb,” Aston said. “I’m still in denial mode. I’m just not thinking it’s happened. Just some big mistake. I’m going to wake up tomorrow and it’s just a bad dream.”

She had been texting with her son recently about plans for Thanksgiving, when he and his partner were going to be off work. “I guess that turkey’s going to stay in the freezer,” she said.

At first, Aston said, she didn’t want to speak about her son’s death. But then she started to think about other mass shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary and the Pulse nightclub. “I don’t want anybody else to go through this. I feel bad for the families who have lost their children through this senseless violence,” she said. “We want to know what happened.”

Raymond Green Vance

Raymond Green Vance, 22, of Colorado Springs, was at Club Q for the first time.

“Even though my son didn’t discriminate against the LGBTQ community, he wasn’t a part of the community. That was his first time going to the club,” said his mother, Adriana Vance. “Unfortunately, Raymond was there at the wrong time.”

Vance, 42, knew her son was accompanying his girlfriend and her family to the club, which she had never been to but considered safe.

Vance said that after his father went to prison six years ago, her son “stepped in as the man of the house.” He graduated from Sand Creek High School in 2018, where he was popular and outgoing. He lived at home with his mother and 8-year-old brother, got a job at FedEx and was saving up for his own place, Vance said.

“He’s going to be greatly missed,” she said. “It’s like we’re still trying to wake up from a nightmare.”

Vance said she has not been able to see her son’s body as it awaits autopsy.

“We’re just in limbo now,” she said.

Photos: Communities come together to remember the victims of the Club Q shooting

Kelly Loving

Kelly Loving, a 40-year-old transgender woman from Memphis, had been visiting friends in Colorado Springs when the violence began.

Earlier that day, she had called a friend back home, Ariel Hill, who was driving and asked whether they could catch up later. But Loving didn’t answer her phone later. Her sister called Hill to break the awful news.

“I just couldn’t believe it,” said Hill, 30. “I wish I could tell her that I’m sorry. I wish I could tell her that I love her.”

Loving was a role model in their LGBTQ circle, said Hill, a transgender woman. She made people feel more comfortable in their own skin. She loved flashy clothes, glittery makeup — statement looks that broadcast confidence.

“She’d say, ‘Girl, you better live your life,’ ” Hill said. “She was the one who taught me how to do my makeup. She inspired a lot of people to come out of their shells — to be the person you’re meant to be.”

How the Colorado mass shooting unfolded — and ended — inside Club Q

Derrick Rump

Club Q regulars could tell before they even entered the bar if Derrick Rump was working that night.

Most evenings, the 38-year-old blasted Britney Spears songs so loud, you could hear them from the parking lot, friends said. If they heard “Toxic” or “... Baby One More Time,” they knew Rump was behind the bar, and the night was going to be good.

Sassy and pint-size, Rump was the glue that held the Colorado Springs queer community together. He bought lashes and outfits for drag queens who couldn’t afford them and, once, during the pandemic, when all of the performers lost their jobs, he bought other people’s groceries for two months straight.

Rump started working at the bar five years ago, and he instantly established himself as a good listener with a heavy pour. If you didn’t know him, and you saw his face, friends said, you might have thought he didn’t want to talk. He was direct and sarcastic, and his dark eyebrows were often raised in a way that felt both daring and distinct. But the minute he started talking, that look melted away.

“He was super welcoming,” Anthony Kichton said. Kichton, a biomedical equipment technician in the Air Force and a student at the University of Colorado, met Rump 10 years ago.

One of Rump’s best friends, a drag performer who started at Club Q the same night Rump did, said Rump could connect with anyone, regardless of age or gender or sexuality. The performer spoke on the condition of anonymity. Many people have sent hateful messages to others who frequented the club in the days since the shooting, she said, and she does not feel safe having her name or face available publicly.

Rump occasionally pulled himself away from the bar to counsel people on the patio, the performer said, and every Thursday night, he signed up for karaoke. He was a passionate singer, if not a technically talented one, and he sang the same off-key version of “Runaway Train” every week. He somehow never learned all the words to the Soul Asylum classic, the performer said, but that didn’t matter.

“He would take the mic and go right to the middle of the dance floor,” the drag performer recalled. “He always missed the first word, then from there, it was him and the song playing catch-up very loudly and proudly.”

Rump grew up in Berks County, Pa., but he had lived in Colorado Springs for at least a decade. The past few years had been hard on that community, the performer said. None of their other tragedies made the news, but some people lost homes and others lost people.

Rump had endured his own string of losses, but he was reluctant to ask others for help. Instead, he found solace in stepping in for other people. In that way, he leaves what many described as an unfillable hole. He is the person they most need to guide them through this time, they said.

Rump “had a tough love attitude with everything,” said Alex Gallagher, a regular who left Club Q about 20 minutes before the shooting began. “If he saw me crying right now, he’d probably tell me to stop crying, to stop being so dramatic. We loved that about him.”

Photos: At least 5 killed after gunman opens fire at LGBTQ club in Colorado Springs

Ashley Paugh

Ashley Paugh loved kids. It was a passion that sent her all over Colorado encouraging people to become foster parents, as well as to the slew of swimming events her 11-year-old daughter, a championship swimmer, had every year.

“She would do anything for the kids,” said her husband and high school sweetheart, Kurt.

The 35-year-old, who counted fishing, hunting and riding four-wheelers as her favorite activities, spent her days working at Kids Crossing, a Colorado Springs-based foster care nonprofit. There, she worked closely with the LGBTQ community to find loving homes for children. In the winter, Kurt said, she organized giving trees for businesses to put up so “foster kids could have brighter holidays.”

That was the project Paugh was set on working on this week — until her life was cut short when a gunman opened fire inside Club Q, where Paugh and a friend were looking forward to a stand-up comedy performance.

The “amazing sister, daughter, wife, aunt and cousin” was killed in the shooting rampage, said Paugh’s sister, Stephanie Clark.

Now Clark is reeling from the death of her only sister and best friend — one “with the biggest heart in the whole world.”

“She loved her family unconditionally,” Clark said. “Our family is completely heartbroken right now and will miss her more than words can say.”

Mass shooting at Club Q in Colorado

What we know: The suspect, Anderson Lee Aldrich, will be formally charged at a hearing today. Aldrich is accused of fatally shooting five people and wounding 17 others at a Colorado Springs night club last month. Records show that Aldrich changed his name at age 15, obscuring a tumultuous past.

Remembering the victims: Officials on Monday identified the five victims killed in the Colorado Springs shooting. Their names are Daniel Aston, Raymond Green Vance, Kelly Loving, Ashley Paugh and Derrick Rump. Here’s how to help family members of the victims and survivors of the Club Q shooting.

Stopping the shooter: An Army veteran who was at the nightclub to celebrate a friend’s birthday with his family disarmed and subdued the gunman. Here’s how the Club Q shooting unfolded.