COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — The music was pounding at the LGBTQ nightclub Club Q when a lone gunman walked in and started shooting, sending people scrambling for cover and leaving horror in his wake.
In interviews, people who survived the shooting described the terror they felt when the suspect starting firing bullets indiscriminately, leaving five dead and 25 injured.
Michael Anderson, a bartender at Club Q, recalled that he heard "a few popping sounds" and initially assumed someone inside the club might have been clapping.
"Then I looked up," he said, "and I realized people were running."
In the dark of the club, Anderson saw "a silhouette of a person" clutching a long gun and heard one loud pop after another. He "jumped beneath the bar" as bullets and glass flew around him.
He thought to himself: "What is my plan to save my life here?"
He hid under the bar as "chaos" erupted on the dance floor. He thought for a moment that he was about to die, remembering that he felt "like a fish in a barrel."
"I was scared. I was trapped," Anderson said. "I wanted to get out of that building."
Anderson, huddled on the floor next to a woman, mentally prepared for what he feared were his final seconds alive: "I just was afraid I wouldn't be able to talk to my mom."
But a few moments later, the sound of gunshots paused.
"It was a weird, very eerie moment, when you have dance music blasting through the club ... but it's absolutely silent."
Anderson said he saw a person he believed to be the shooter "getting beaten up by a few people." Officials have said "at least two heroic people" subdued the gunman until he was apprehended.
"I don't know who stopped him," Anderson told NBC News, "but I'm grateful, because they most certainly saved my life last night."
Jerecho Loveall, who said he's been a Club Q regular for more than 10 years, was at the bar Saturday night. A drag show concluded after 11 p.m., he said, and it was later that hour that he heard the sound of "rapid fire" shooting, saw muzzle flashes, and spotted the outline of large man in a vest shooting toward the bar.
"At the time I didn't know I was shot," he said. "But something brought me to the ground."
Loveall said his instinct was to check on friends after the gunfire ended, and he said he later found out some are dead or injured. He also discovered his own injury, a through-and-through bullet wound to the lower part of a leg.
"It missed my bones fortunately, but I do have obviously flesh damage," he said. "I am not able to process everything that has happened just yet."
He has processed this much, Loveall said: "You don't need to take lives or cause pain and suffering to people that you don't know, you don't understand. It's unnecessary."
Joshua Thurman, a patron of the club who also survived the shooting, told NBC affiliate station KUSA that he was on the dance floor when he heard piercing sounds.
Initially, Thurman thought the sounds might be the music blasting on the speakers, so he kept on dancing. But then another round of shots rang out.
He turned to his left and saw a muzzle flash. Panic set in, and he bolted to a nearby dressing room where drag performers usually changed costumes for shows. He hunkered down there with two others.
They locked the doors. They turned off the lights. They got on the ground. Thurman said he remembers feeling he could be killed at any moment.
"At any second, this man could just burst through the door and kill us if he really wanted to," Thurman said, fighting back tears and wiping his nose with a crumpled tissued.
Thurman said he could hear the sound of police officers storming inside to detain the suspect while he and the two others by his side shook and wept, "fearing for our lives."
The chaos could be felt by at least one person sitting in their car in the parking lot outside Club Q.
Yuki De’Rael, 23, heard "people screaming everywhere."
When the bullets started to fly, De’Rael's gut instinct was to drive away. He had been in the parking lot playing with his phone while waiting on a friend.
De’Rael, who identifies as gynosexual and uses he/him pronouns, remembered thinking to himself: "My God, I might die right now."
But as he started to pull away, he started to fear there might be multiple shooters — and wondered whether someone else was lurking nearby, waiting for cars trying to exit.
"It's that adrenaline of, 'I can’t think, and I don’t know what to do.' I didn’t want to drive off because I didn’t know if there were people" who would be waiting, he said.
"I just sat there and waited for cops to come. They showed up pretty quickly," De'Rael said.
De’Rael has not slept. But he said he feels lucky to be alive.
He also feels some regret: "I feel really bad that I wasn’t able to do more in terms of helping."
Police responded to initial calls at 11:57 p.m. local time. Social media footage from across the street and verified by NBC News showed dozens of police vehicles and a fire truck deployed near the club.
The first officer arrived on the scene at midnight, and the suspect was detained two minutes later, officials said at a news conference Sunday morning.
Steve Patterson and Deon J. Hampton reported from Colorado Springs, Colorado; Daniel Arkin reported from New York.