The shooter who killed five people at an LGBTQIA+ bar in Colorado Springs, Colorado, intends to plead guilty to 50 hate crime charges and 24 firearm violations, according to multiple reports Tuesday.
Anderson Aldrich’s expected guilty plea, which would come months after a judge set a sentence of life in prison in connection with the November 2022 shooting at Club Q, is part of a deal with federal prosecutors that may help Aldrich avoid the death penalty, according to KRCC-FM, a public radio station in Colorado Springs. With the approval of a judge, Aldrich is set to receive multiple life sentences and a 190-year sentence on top of the original sentence, according to The Associated Press. Aldrich is currently at the Wyoming State Penitentiary.
In June 2023, Aldrich pleaded guilty to murder and 46 counts of attempted murder. Since Colorado has abolished the death penalty, Aldrich was sentenced to five consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole. However, the new federal firearm violations come with the possibility of the death penalty, according to the AP.
“The parties have agreed that multiple concurrent life sentences plus a consecutive sentence of 190 years imprisonment is sufficient but not greater than necessary to achieve the goals of criminal justice,” a court filing by federal prosecutors says, according to KRCC.
Before the Club Q shooting, Aldrich had been accused of threatening to kill their grandparents and of swearing they’d become “the next mass killer.″ They also used homophobic and racist language in online extremist spaces, NBC News reported.
Aldrich is nonbinary and uses they/them pronounswhich has caused skepticism from people who knew Aldrich or who are experts in extremism, according to NBC News.
However, 4th Judicial District Attorney Michael Allen has doubted the authenticity of Aldrich’s pronouns.
“There’s zero evidence prior to the shooting that he was nonbinary. There was nobody that indicated prior to the shooting that he ever identified as nonbinary,” Allen said.
“He exhibited extreme hatred for people in the LGBTQ+ community ― and other minority groups as well, I should say, and so I think it was a stilted effort to avoid any bias-motivated or hate charges,” Allen said.
Aldrich killed Raymond Green Vance, 22, Daniel Aston, 28, Ashley Paugh, 35, Derrick Rump, 38, and Kelly Loving, 40 in the shooting that began late on Nov. 19, 2022, and continued past midnight. Aldrich also injured 19 people and attempted to kill 28 others.
The shooting is part of a larger trend of violence against the LGBTQIA+ community, including the killings of at least 31 transgender and gender non-conforming people in 2023, according to the Human Rights Campaign. In addition, more than 500 anti-LGBTQ pieces of legislation were introduced last year, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.
Club Q served as a haven for those who identified as part of that community and a gathering place for neighbors and allies. It has announced plans to reopen with a new name in a new location.
“We are excited and ready to begin a new chapter for Club Q in Colorado Springs,” Michael Anderson, Club Q’s vice president of operations, told HuffPost’s Shruti Rajkumar in October. “We believe this new venue will continue to support the vision Club Q has always believed in ― inclusivity, safety, acceptance and equality for all.”
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