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Colorado Springs councilmember Nancy Henjum reflects on shooting in LGBTQ nightclub


We are learning more about the tragedy in Colorado last night. There was a shooting at an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs called Club Q. Five were killed and at least 18 people were injured. Police have identified a suspect, a 22-year-old who is in custody. We've reached out to Nancy Henjum a city council member and longtime resident of Colorado Springs. Thank you so much for making the time to speak with us. And I just want to say, we are so sorry that this has happened to your city.

NANCY HENJUM: Thank you so much, Ayesha. I am pretty devastated, as we all are. And I'm sorry to be having to talk with you this morning, but grateful for your coverage.

RASCOE: So, I mean, I know, as you said, this is a devastating thing that happens and has happened all too often in this country, but how are you and the community holding up?

HENJUM: Well, I would say it's still very fresh news. But already, our community is rallying around in support of the victims of the families of the community in total. As you may or may not know, it is Trans Awareness Week and Trans Awareness Day. And my understanding is that this club was going to have an event this evening in honor of folks who have lost their lives from hate. But we have many churches - actually, my own church, First Congregational Church, is an open and affirming church. And I'm missing that worship right now to talk with you, but I know we are in support - Metropolitan Community Church, a gay church, Vista Grande. At All Souls - I'll be at a vigil here in about another hour or so. It's a Unitarian church. So the church community is gathering as well as, of course, we have tremendous support from our police and fire and the city - the mayor. But it's devastating.

RASCOE: I know you were just at the police briefing. What more can you tell us about the shooting?

HENJUM: Well, I'm not sure that I have much more information than what was released. All the information that was released publicly at the press conference is what I know. I don't think this was said, however, and I did understand that two patrons took him down quickly and that had they not done that, there likely would have been much greater loss of life. I have no idea who those patrons were, but it took a tremendous amount of courage for them to take down this this man with a gun.

RASCOE: You mentioned that this is Trans Remembrance Day. There will be an investigation. Some of that will be focused on determining whether this was a hate crime. Do you have any thoughts on that and concerns?

HENJUM: Well, of course, a concern - we do not know at this point, and we need to rely on the investigation to determine for sure. However, you know, the location of the crime does certainly make one pause and wonder. You know, Colorado Springs has a history of being known as a city of hate. And Amendment 2 was born out of Colorado Springs - fortunately, was overturned by the Supreme Court. And we now, I would say very proudly, are actually a community that is welcoming and supportive and loving of all people, regardless of gender or gender preference. And so I'm proud of our city.

RASCOE: What can you say about - I mean, obviously, as I said, this has happened way too often. And often, you'll have the coverage now, and then the coverage may not be there. What are you going to - what's going to happen in the months and the weeks after this to help make sure people have support?

HENJUM: We will continue to do the work that we're doing. There's an amazing organization called Inside Out. I would encourage any youth who are listening to go to their website - insideoutys.org. They have a virtual community support board and in-person support. So we will continue to love and love and love. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. So we need to continue to move forward and love.

RASCOE: That's Nancy Henjum, a Colorado Springs city council member. Thank you so much for speaking with us.

HENJUM: My pleasure. Thank you very much for inviting me, Ayesha. Take care. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

United States & World Weekend Edition Sunday
Ayesha Rascoe is a White House correspondent for NPR. She is currently covering her third presidential administration. Rascoe's White House coverage has included a number of high profile foreign trips, including President Trump's 2019 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam, and President Obama's final NATO summit in Warsaw, Poland in 2016. As a part of the White House team, she's also a regular on the NPR Politics Podcast.