The victims of the shooting at the LGBTQ-friendly Club Q in Colorado Springs include two bartenders, the mother of an 11-year-old girl and two other clubgoers who were enjoying a carefree night before a lone gunman started firing indiscriminately.
The shooting left 19 other people injured and a community in mourning.
“Too often society loses track of the victims of these sad and tragic events in all the talk of the suspect,” Colorado Springs Police Chief Adrian Vasquez said at a Monday afternoon news conference. “We strive to give the victims the dignity and respect they deserve.”
Daniel Aston, 28
Two years ago, Daniel Aston moved from his native Tulsa, Oklahoma, to Colorado Springs, where he started working at Club Q as a bartender and entertainer, his mom told The Associated Press.
“He lit up a room, always smiling, always happy and silly,” said his mom, Sabrina Aston, who lives in Colorado Springs.
She recalled how liberated he seemed as he slid across the club’s stage on his knees, delighting the crowd.
Sabrina Aston described the killing of her son, a transgender man, as a “nightmare that you can’t wake up from.”
“I keep thinking it’s just, it’s a mistake. They’ve made a mistake and that he’s really alive,” she told the AP.
She said she first heard about the attack early Sunday, when one of her son’s friends called to tell her that Aston was in the hospital. She rushed to Memorial Hospital to be with him, but she was told to wait at home for an update.
She learned later that morning that he had died.
Kelly Loving, 40
Kelly Loving’s sister, Tiffany Loving, told The New York Times that she learned of her sibling’s death from the FBI on Sunday.
“She was loving, always trying to help the next person out, instead of thinking of herself,” Tiffany Loving told The Times. “She just was a caring person. I was really close with her.”
Natalee Skye Bingham, one of Loving’s close friends, told NBC News on Tuesday that she spoke to her via FaceTime just minutes before the gunman opened fire. Bingham, 25, recalled her final words to Loving before they hung up: “Be safe, I love you.”
Bingham said she first met Loving, a transgender woman, when they were working at the same club in Florida nearly a decade ago.
“She was such a beautiful trans woman,” Bingham said. “She could be intimidating because she was so gorgeous. But she was the exact opposite. She was warm, welcoming, and she took me under her wing.”
Loving, like many trans people, found herself the target of violence, including a previous shooting and a stabbing, Bingham said.
Bingham knows the horrors of gun violence all too well: She said that she relocated from Florida to Colorado after she survived the massacre at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, in June 2016. Bingham settled in Denver, and Loving recently moved there, too.
The two friends were supposed to spend Thanksgiving together. Now, Bingham said, she is determined to pay tribute to Loving’s memory in any way she can. “I want to be a voice for her,” she said, “and I will make sure she is heard.”
Ashley Paugh, 35
Ashley Paugh was capping off a day trip in Colorado Springs with a night of fun at Club Q when the gunman opened fire, her sister said.
Stephanie Clark said Paugh was a loving mother and wife who was devoted to her family, including her 11-year-old daughter.
“My niece is devastated,” Clark said, adding that Paugh “lived for her daughter.”
In a phone interview Monday, Clark sobbed and described an intense swirl of emotions in the wake of her sister’s death.
“It just doesn’t seem real,” Clark said. “We’re heartbroken. We’re sad. We’re mad, angry.”
Paugh, who is not part of the LGBTQ community, spent Saturday in Colorado Springs with a female friend. The two friends got a bite to eat, went shopping and planned to end the night at Club Q, where they were expecting a comedian to perform, Clark said.
“Nothing will ever be the same without her,” Clark said. “Right now, I don’t want to laugh. She was a loving, caring person who would do anything for anybody. We’re gonna miss her so much.”
Friends said Rump was a bartender at Club Q who was endearingly sassy and brutally honest.