The tide of fear unleashed in Colorado Springs and across the country reflects not only sorrow for the lives lost, but also the immense pain of what many saw as an assault on a community that has long been marginalized and threatened with violence.
The crowd at Club Q celebrated Transgender Day of Remembrance on Saturday night, an annual commemoration that underscores the grave danger faced by transgender, gender non-matched and gay people who openly embrace their identities.
“They were having something of a celebration of life for the people who had died.” Sabrina Aston, Mr Aston’s mother, told The Associated Press. “And instead they lost their lives.”
Ms Loving, 40, visited Club Q on Saturday night during a weekend trip from Denver, where she moved about a month ago.
“She was loving and always trying to help the next person instead of thinking about herself,” said her sister Tiffany Loving. “She was just a caring person. I was very close to her.”
Natalee Skye Bingham, 25, said she first met Ms Loving about seven years ago when they were working together at a Florida club. Ms Bingham said Ms Loving had been like a mother to her and encouraged her at an uncertain time.
“When I started the transition, I wasn’t confident at all,” recalls Ms. Bingham. “She reminded me that if you’re trans you don’t do anything wrong, that it’s okay to embrace it because you’re a beautiful person.”
“Without their trust,” Ms. Bingham continued, “I wouldn’t know where I would be today.”
Ms Bingham said Ms Loving, like many transgender people, had previously been beaten, even stabbed and shot at, but that she was a “fighter”.
Ms. Loving has been depressed lately, but she began to feel better as she made her first and only visit to Club Q. A few minutes before the shoot, she had shown off her outfit – black skirt, black top, newly dyed red hair – via a FaceTime call.
“It was nice to see her so confident,” Ms Bingham said. “It was such a relief to know that she felt beautiful that night.”
Shadavia Green, 38, was also introduced to Club Q during a visit to Colorado Springs. It was a few years ago and she could immediately sense the space was special.
“You didn’t feel like you were going to a bar,” she said on Monday. “It felt like seeing your family.”
A few months later, Ms. Green moved to the city from Georgia and became a bartender at the club. From 2018 to 2021 she worked behind the bar with Mr Rump who started before she arrived and later with Mr Aston who was hired about two years ago.
Ms Green said Mr Rump had a biting sense of humor but was also “very perceptive”.
On busy nights at the club, which could draw up to 200 guests, Mr. Rump made sure they were comfortable and checked in with anyone who seemed particularly quiet.
“He really loved Club Q,” Ms. Green said. “He was the bar.”
Jerecho Loveall, 30, a former dancer at the bar who spent almost every Saturday night there before he was shot in the leg on Saturday, remembered Mr Rump as “a clean guy” who hugged everyone. Mr. Loveall is a straight man in a polyamorous relationship with his wife and a girlfriend.
“And when he found all this out, there was no judgment,” he recalled of Mr. Rump.
Mr Aston was the “warmest, most loving person,” Ms Green recalled, adding, “He had friends who would come by truckloads just to come over and see him bartender or just hang out and support. “
“Daniel had this smile that you would see anywhere in the club,” Ms. Green said, “and you would literally say, ‘Let me find a reason to go there,’ just to be closer to Daniel.”
Mr. Aston, a 28-year-old transgender man, moved to Colorado Springs two years ago. Club Q got him his first job as a bartender. He loved the work and often performed at the venue, his mother told The Associated Press.
“He would get crazy wigs and outfits and he would jump across the stage and he could slide on his knees,” she said. “And he was quite entertaining. Everyone started hooting and yelling.”