Suspect in Colorado Springs attack charged with murder and hate crimes
By Dave Philipps
The person accused of opening fire in an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado, in a rampage that killed five people and injured at least 17 others, was formally charged earlier this week with 305 criminal counts, including 10 counts of first-degree murder, 86 of attempted murder and 48 of bias-motivated crimes.
The police say that the suspect, Anderson Lee Aldrich, 22, walked through the front door of Club Q in Colorado Springs near midnight Nov. 19, wearing body armor and carrying an assault-style rifle, and immediately started firing. The assailant was tackled and beaten into submission by two unarmed club patrons and was held until the police arrived.
The hearing Tuesday was the first time the defendant appeared in court in person since the shooting. Wearing bright yellow jail scrubs, the defendant was upright and attentive, and appeared to have healed significantly since a video court appearance in the days immediately after the shooting. At that time, the suspect seemed to be slumped over, with eyes swollen shut and a bruised face, and struggled just to speak.
The defendant is being held without bond at the El Paso County jail. After the charges were filed Tuesday, the judge overseeing the case, Michael McHenry, set a preliminary hearing for February. At the request of prosecutors, the judge agreed to unseal the arrest affidavit by Wednesday.
The defendant did not enter a plea.
No clear motive for the shooting has emerged publicly. But the inclusion of charges of bias-motivated crimes, commonly known as hate crimes, by prosecutors suggests that they believe the attack was motivated specifically by antipathy toward the LGBTQ community.
Speaking to reporters after the hearing, District Attorney Michael Allen declined to discuss details of the investigation but said that his office felt confident that it had evidence to prove the bias-motivated crime charges.
“We are not going to tolerate actions against community members based on their sexual identity,” Allen said. “Members of that community have been harassed, intimidated and abused for too long.”
Defense lawyers say that the defendant identifies as nonbinary, and uses the pronouns “they” and “them.” When asked by reporters whether the defendant’s gender identity figured in the bias-motivated crime charges, Allen said it was “part of the picture.”
Prosecutors chose to charge two counts of murder for each of the five people killed at the club, saying the defendant had acted both with deliberation and intent, and with extreme indifference toward human life.
Colorado abolished its death penalty in 2020, so the maximum possible sentence in the case is life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Allen said more charges had been filed in the case than in nearly any other in the state’s history. The number of charges could change, he said, as investigators try to track down all the people who were at the club that night.
The defendant was arrested in 2021 for making a bomb threat during a standoff with police that lasted for hours. According to The Gazette, a Colorado Springs newspaper, an affidavit filed in connection with that arrest quoted the defendant as saying that they wanted to be “the next mass shooter.” Details of that arrest were sealed by a judge, and it remains unclear how the case was resolved. The district attorney said state law prohibited him from commenting on that case.