Reeling from the horror of the mass shooting at Club Q on Saturday night, friends and loved ones of the victims are remembering them and the love they brought to the LGBTQ community in Colorado Springs.
Daniel Davis Aston, a trans man who bartended at the club, was “the light in every room,” his friend Tempest Cartwright told BuzzFeed News. Aston’s coworker and friend, Derrick Rump, performed in drag at an event at Club Q last month and gushed over the love and support he felt from the community. Kelly Loving, a trans woman who was visiting from Denver, was tough and caring, her loved ones said. Ashley Paugh was married to her high school sweetheart and had an 11-year-old daughter. Raymond Green was celebrating a birthday with a group of friends when the shooting happened.
They were the five people killed when a gunman opened fire in Club Q, the only gay bar in Colorado Springs, a conservative city, on Saturday night. At least 18 others were injured.
The bar was hosting a “Drag Divas” event that night, and had planned an all-ages musical drag brunch and an evening drag show on Sunday to commemorate Transgender Day of Remembrance. Fueled by hateful rhetoric from Republican lawmakers and conservative public figures, drag shows and safe community spaces for queer and trans people have increasingly come under vicious threats, many of which have manifested as real-life violence.
The shooter was confronted and subdued by two patrons before police arrived, Colorado Springs Chief of Police Adrian Vasquez said Sunday, preventing more deaths and injuries.
“Their actions clearly saved lives,” Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers said.
Officials have not publicly identified the victims, but moving tributes from family and friends have shed light on who they were and what they meant to their community. Here’s what we know about the victims.
Daniel Davis Aston, a trans man who tended the bar and performed at Club Q, loved working there and being surrounded by his community, his friend Tempest Cartwright said.
Aston, 28, had moved from Oklahoma to Colorado Springs two years ago and was immediately drawn to Club Q, which made a name for itself as a safe haven for the LGBTQ community in the city.
“He stayed there at the bar every night trying to talk them into letting him have a job there, and eventually, you know, he was there so often that they just kind threw him a towel and said, ‘Get started,’” Cartwright told BuzzFeed News.
The two friends met five or six years ago and had been inseparable since. Cartwright was the shy friend, and Aston was the outgoing one who coaxed him out of his shell.
“He was just the light in every room,” Cartwright said. “There was not a stranger to him, you know, everywhere we went, he was just so outgoing.”
They last saw each other just two weeks ago, when Aston went back to Oklahoma for a couple of weeks and stayed at Cartwright’s place. They had separate weddings to attend, and they were both each other’s plus ones.
Cartwright said he and Aston started their transition at around the same time, and they both have “seen all the hate that comes with it.”
“The anger is really what I’m battling right now. Just because, it’s scary, you know, my biggest fear come true,” he said.
“We just do our very best to be kind,” Cartwright added. “I think it’s just so hard to be so kind to a world that doesn’t reciprocate.”
Although he had only been in Colorado Springs for two years, Aston was embraced by the tight-knit LGBTQ community there. His mother, Sabrina Aston, told CPR News that he was “the happiest he had ever been” in Colorado Springs.
“He was thriving and having fun and having friends. It’s just unbelievable,” she said. “He had so much more life to give to us and to all to his friends and to himself.”
In September, he tweeted about his love for the people he’d met at Club Q.
“Mushy post here but I love the folks I’ve met at this bar. It’s crazy how much support and love I’ve received here,” he wrote. “I’m so fucking grateful to everyone that I’ve met here in Colorado. Seriously I thank god for y’all. I’m not sure if I would’ve survived without you guys. Thank you thank you thank you.”
On Facebook, Aston’s friends and loved ones shared videos of his performances at the bar, smiling onstage as he animated the crowd.
Briana Renae was among his friends who posted a clip from one of Aston’s shows.
“This is how we will always remember you, Daniel Davis Aston,” she wrote. “Full of joy, eager to make people happy, and feel connected.”
Aston was starting to establish a bigger role for himself at the bar, hosting shows and putting on events, Cartwright said.
“He was so happy to have that,” he said. “That’s all he wanted, was to be that part of the community.”
Like Aston, Derrick Rump was a bartender at Club Q. The Gazette, a Colorado Springs newspaper, also identified Rump as a co-owner of the bar.
Originally from Pennsylvania, Rump, 38, was a welcoming presence at the bar, a friend of his told CBS News.
“Loving, supportive, with a heavy hand in his drink pouring, and just a really good listener and would not be afraid to tell you when you were wrong instead of telling you what you wanted to hear, and that was really valuable,” Anthony Jaramillo told CBS News.
Rump was the first real friend Reuben Warren made in Colorado Springs when Warren moved there two years ago.
“Words can’t even begin to form on the hurt, pain, and anger I have inside,” Warren wrote in a post on Facebook. “I just talked to you yesterday morning and you told me to ‘have a good day at work because I don’t work on Saturday.’ Fuck this shit hurts. Truly a blessing to me and I’m going to miss seeing that bright smile, and charming personality.”
Rump performed in drag at an event at the bar in October. Afterward, he thanked friends and loved ones who came to support him, and shared photos from the night, saying he had a blast.
“Thank you all that came and supported everyone in the show tonight you truly made all of our night with the love and commitment that you all showed us tonight!” he later posted. “Thank you again and show that you are commitment to this community and to our local drag and family! I was overwhelmed with the emotion and support that you all had thank you ! I love you all”
Loving, a trans woman who was on a weekend trip to Colorado Springs, was identified by her sister, Tiffany Loving, to the New York Times.
Loving, 40, had just moved to Denver recently, her friend Natalee Skye Bingham told the Times. Loving was on a FaceTime call with Bingham from inside Club Q just before the shooting, she said.
“She was a tough woman,” Bingham said. “She taught me how it was to be a trans woman and live your life day to day.”
Her sister, Tiffany, said she heard about Loving’s death from the FBI.
“She was loving, always trying to help the next person out instead of thinking of herself. She just was a caring person,” her sister told the Times.
Ashley Paugh’s family members identified her as one of the victims on social media on Monday. Paugh, 35, was married to her high school sweetheart with whom she had an 11-year-old daughter, her sister-in-law, Kimberly Paugh, said in a Facebook post.
She had been in Colorado Springs on Saturday to spend the day with a friend, her sister, Stephanie Clark, told NBC News.
Paugh was not part of the LGBTQ community, but she and her friend went to Club Q on Saturday night to see some stand-up comedy, Clark said.
Paugh was “the best aunt, mother, sister, wife, cousin, niece” anyone could ever ask for, her nephew, Jaden Harris, wrote on Facebook.
“[H]e took away the most beautiful soul away from our family an[d] many others over this ignorant, hateful, despicable act,” Harris wrote.
Loved ones identified Raymond Green as one of the people who was killed in the shooting. Green and his friends were at Club Q on Saturday to celebrate a birthday when the gunman opened fire inside the bar.
Several people in their group were wounded trying to escape, Jess Fierro, a brewer whose daughter was in a relationship with Green, said on social media.
“With an incredibly heavy and broken heart we lost Raymond, who had been a part of our lives since our daughter was in high school. Raymond was Kassy’s boyfriend,” Fierro wrote. “We are going to miss him and his bright smile so much.”
Green’s girlfriend, Kassy Fierro, mourned him in heart-wrenching posts on Facebook.
“u are my home. my heart. my everything. u changed my life. u made life worth living,” Kassy wrote. “u made me the happiest i ever been. laugh the hardest i ever have. meeting u was the best thing to ever happen to me. u gave me the best 5 years and four months. my sweet love, i will never forget u.”
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