Aurora schools, agencies offer mental health support in wake of mass shooting at Colorado Springs LGBTQ club

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AURORA | Aurora’s two school districts and the Community College of Aurora sent out messages encouraging students to take advantage of mental health resources if they are struggling in the aftermath of the shooting that killed five and injured over two dozen at an LGBTQ club in Colorado Springs early Sunday morning.

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The attack is the latest in the spate of mass shootings that Colorado has endured, including a shooting at a Boulder King Soopers last year that killed 10 and the Aurora theater shooting 10 years ago that claimed 12 lives. As news of the attack at Club Q rolled in early Sunday morning, it provoked a fresh round of grief and anger among the state’s residents.

The news was particularly painful for the state’s LGBTQ community, many of whom had expressed concern at an increase in anti-gay and anti-transgender rhetoric from the political right during the midterm elections. 

“The shooting at Club Q is a symptom of the hate that we as LGBTQ people still face. I’m heartbroken,” said Aurora City Councilmember Alison Coombs in a tweet Sunday.

In a message posted to the district’s website, APS Superintendent Rico Munn said that it is “difficult to process that our state is now dealing with another horrific mass shooting.”

“This loss is heartbreaking and we know that many of you and your student(s) may be struggling with news of this attack,” he said. “The police investigation is just starting so we do not yet know the motive, but we know this is a community often attacked because of hate and that this event, regardless of motive, will cause pain and hurt. As we all struggle with emotions stemming from this event, please know that Aurora Public Schools is here to support our students, staff and families.”

He encouraged students to take advantage of the district’s mental health resources and provided links to several LGBTQ+ specific resources, including The Trevor Project.

“As a community, we all must reach out during challenging times like these and support each other,” Munn said. “Please know that we support you and will continue to care for you.”

On Monday, Cherry Creek Schools superintendent Chris Smith sent out a letter to district families where he described the shooting as “a senseless act of violence.”

“Our hearts and thoughts are with the friends and families of the victims of this horrific shooting and the LGBTQ+ community at large,” he said.

Smith reiterated the district’s commitment to diversity and equity and shared links to PFLAG Denver and the Center on Colfax, as well as several mental health hotlines.

“Cherry Creek Schools stands with our LGBTQ+ students, staff, and community members,” he said. “We will not tolerate hateful speech or actions against LGTBQ+ individuals in our schools. My message for LGBTQ+ members of our CCSD community is this: You are valued. You matter. You are loved. You belong here.”

The Community College of Aurora also published a statement encouraging students and staff to use the college’s mental health and counseling resources if they are struggling.

“Today the Community College of Aurora mourns with members of the LGBTQIA+ community,” the statement said. “Last night, an armed gunman entered Club Q in Colorado Springs, killing 5 and critically injuring eighteen. While information is still forthcoming, we can however, recognize this as yet another senseless killing driven by hate.”

Veterans Affairs said that it is offering same-day access to mental health clinics at the Rocky Mountain Regional VA Medical Center in Aurora, and peer support specialists and hosting information booths to connect veterans to relevant services.

Elected officials in the Aurora area reacted to the shooting Sunday on social media, expressing sympathy for the victims as well as frustration that yet another mass shooting had taken place in Colorado. Incoming interim Aurora police chief Art Acevedo described the shooting as “heartbreaking” and encouraged residents to report suspicious behavior to the police. 

“We must commit to combating gun violence and hate in every form in a thoughtful and comprehensive manner,” he said. “Praying for all.”

The department’s bias-motivated crime detective can be reached at 303.627.3100 or by email at [email protected]

On twitter, city Councilmember Danielle Jurinsky questioned why the suspect had not been incarcerated prior to the shooting.

“I’d like to know why the Colorado Justice system continues to fail us,” Jurinsky said in a tweet, along with a photo of a news release from the 2021 incident. “1 year ago this guy was booked into the El Paso County Jail for 2 counts of felony menacing and 3 counts of 1st degree kidnapping. Why was this guy roaming free last night and not behind bars??” 

According to reporting from the Associated Press and other outlets, in June of 2021 the shooter allegedly threatened his mother with a homemade bomb, prompting an evacuation of the surrounding houses while a bomb squad arrived. Despite that, the AP said there was no record of prosecutors moving forward with any of the charges he was arrested on.

A later report indicates the shooting suspect avoided Colorado’s so-called “red flag law,” intended to remove guns from criminals and others considered dangerous.

Aurora politician Tom Sullivan, who’s son Alex was killed in the Aurora theater shooting and who sponsored the state’s 2019 red flag law, told the AP the incident should have been a wake-up call.

“We need heroes beforehand — parents, co-workers, friends who are seeing someone go down this path,” Sullivan told the AP. “This should have alerted them, put him on their radar.”

A number of commemorations are planned across the region, including a candlelight vigil at Denver’s LGBTQ nightclub Tracks at 7 p.m. on Monday. The state has activated the Colorado Healing Fund in response to the shooting, where individuals can donate online to support the victims’ short and long-term support.

Other Aurora-area comment:

Congressman Jason Crow: Horrific situation in Colorado Springs. I’m thinking of all victims & their families, & will continue monitoring the situation. These attacks must stop. My heart is with our LGBTQ+ community as we all reel from this violence.

State Sen. Rhonda Fields: Last night’s attack on Club Q in Colorado Springs was a senseless attack on a safe space for the LGBTQ+ community. My thoughts go out to the victims and their families. On Transgender Day of Remembrance, we must root out all forms of transphobia and homophobia hatred. No community should ever have to endure horrific acts of violence. We must end gun violence in Colorado for All!!

State Rep. Iman Jodeh: These shootings are not senseless, these are calculated acts by people who’s purpose is to intentionally inflict violence. If we don’t find air-tight gun violence prevention policies, I’m afraid we are continuing to give permission for these massacres to keep happening.

State Rep. Mandy Lindsay: I woke up to the devastating news out of Colorado Springs, that five people were killed and 18 injured in yet another mass shooting — this one targeting the LGBTQ community. I am heartbroken and furious. It is the hate speech. And it is the guns.

Aurora Mayor Mike Coffman: Late last night, there was a terrible tragedy in Colorado Springs. A mass shooting occurred in an LGBTQ-friendly night club where a lone gunman got inside of the Q Club and started indiscriminately shooting. So far, it has been reported that five were killed and dozens were injured. The city council and I approved of sending a letter of support to go out to Colorado Springs and APD Chief Dan Oates has reached out to his counterpart in Colorado Springs to see if there is any specific assistance that we can provide.

Aurora City Councilmember Curtis Gardner: Our society shouldn’t tolerate a hate-driven attack on the LGBTQ community. We should be better; too many in power encourage attacks like this by treating others with hate rather than love. NO ONE should be targeted for who they love, the color of their skin or any other reason.

Aurora City Councilmember Danielle Jurinsky: Devastating news out of Colorado Springs this morning. My thoughts are with the victims and my prayers are for peace.

Aurora City Councilmember Dustin Zvonek: Heartbreaking news of more senseless violence. Sending thoughts and prayers to all who have been impacted.

Aurora Police Department: We are sending love & support to the LGBTQ+ Community, CSPPIO & CO Springs. We wont tolerate crimes that are perpetrated against someone b/c of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Please continue to be vigilant & report suspicious or bias-motivated activity immediately.

Incoming interim Aurora police chief Art Acevedo: The LGBTQIA+ community is all of our community and it includes family members, friends, neighbors, coworkers, and every segment of society. Please know that we stand with you today, tomorrow and always. Please report suspicious activity or threats to the police, #safertogether.

Arapahoe County Commissioner-elect Jessica Campbell-Swanson: Attacking marginalized communities with hate and violence is pointless. It has not and will not achieve its goal. It is a cowardly, ignorant act that results in the tragic death and injury of innocent people for nothing.

CCA president Mordecai Brownlee: This morning, our institution mourns for the lives taken and the individuals impacted by last night’s horrific shooting; hatred has no place in our communities and certainly not at the Community College of Aurora. Our diversity and commitment to inclusion and belonging is what makes us stronger.

Bob Dorshimer, CEO of Mile High Behavioral Health: I am frankly shocked and saddened to wake up yet  again to horrible news and more traumatic news of a hateful act of violence against the Rainbow Community I’m a proud member of. No community should ever have to endure this horrible act of violence. The Mile High Behavioral Healthcare Community is deeply saddened by this senseless act and stands in solidarity with our Colorado Springs Community.

 

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