COLORADO SPRINGS - Mr Joshua Thurman thought the first gunshots were part of the music and kept dancing.
When a gunman opened fire inside Club Q in Colorado Springs, Colorado, on Saturday night, killing at least five people, Mr Thurman was at the club for an early birthday celebration.
He said he was on the dance floor when the shooting started and didn’t realise right away what was happening. But when he heard more shots and saw a flash from the muzzle of a gun, he ran to a dressing room at the rear of the club.
He stayed in the dressing room with a drag performer and another patron, and described hearing the “pow! pow!” of gunshots.
“When we came out of the dressing room, we saw bodies,” he recalled, choking back a sob, on Sunday morning. “There was broken glass, blood – I lost friends!”
Mr Thurman, 34, spoke to reporters on Sunday outside the club, where he had come to retrieve his car from the parking lot. He said that he used to work at the club as a go-go dancer and that a bartender who had become a close acquaintance over the years was among those who were killed.
Mr Thurman, whose apartment is nearby, said Club Q was a “safe place” for its patrons: “This is a place we love, a place of peace, a place to be ourselves.”
Mr Angelo Patino, 18, a drag performer who left the club about a half-hour before the shooting, said Club Q was a place where he could express himself the way he wanted, within a community that “will be happy for you.”
He woke up on Sunday to reports that at least one person he knew had been killed.
“I always felt protected there, no matter what,” Mr Patino said. “It hurts me that I could not protect my friends when they needed it.” NYTIMES