After Club Q shooting, victims question spending of donation money

Ashtin Gamblin never realized how expensive it would be to survive a mass shooting.

But after being shot nine times in the attack at an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs, Colorado, last November, the bills started piling up for Gamblin. Dozens of other survivors and families of the five people killed have found themselves in a similar bind. They lost paychecks, fell behind on rent and had to replace clothing seized as evidence.

Colorado has raised more than $3 million in donations for people affected by the Club Q shooting and distributed about $2 million, through a nonprofit called the Colorado Healing Fund.

But several survivors say the money has come too slowly, with too much red tape.

Just days before the accused shooter is scheduled to appear in state court, their frustrations burst into public when several survivors held a news conference pleading for the money to be handed out faster.

Fund officials say that they have done their best to efficiently distribute funds to cover victims’ urgent needs and financial losses, but said they also had an obligation to reserve some money for long-term support of victims.

“We’re doing our damnedest to get this right,” said Steven Siegel, a board member of the Colorado Healing Fund.

It is part of a complicated aftermath of one of the deadliest attacks ever against members of the LGBTQ community — a story of tight bonds, but also disagreements over money and questions about how to memorialize the victims, or whether it’s appropriate for Club Q to raise funds by selling rainbow mugs and shirts evoking the shooting. The club’s owner says the money will fund a memorial and better security for when the club reopens.

On Monday, survivors and victims’ families are planning to gather in a Colorado Springs courtroom for a hearing in which they say officials have told them to expect the defendant to plead guilty to multiple counts of first-degree murder and hate crimes.

Several families and survivors, who did not want to be named, said prosecutors had discussed a possible plea agreement for months in private conversations with victims. It has sparked agonizing conversations about what constitutes justice for a defendant charged with killing five people and injuring at least 18 others.

Federal prosecutors could still pursue federal charges against the shooter, but have not said publicly whether they would.This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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