Alleged Club Q attacker charged with hate crimes and murder

Anderson Lee Aldrich is accused of committing a shooting at a Colorado Springs LGBTQ club that left five dead.

The alleged assailant in the Club Q gay nightclub shooting that killed five people has been charged with hate crimes, murder and assault.

The suspect, Anderson Lee Aldrich, appeared in court Tuesday to hear charges over the Nov. 19 LGBTQ club attack in Colorado Springs, Colorado, which left five dead and at least 17 injured. The Reuters news agency estimated the number of injured at 22.

The dead were identified as Kelly Loving, 40; Daniel Aston, 28; Derrick Rump, 38; Ashley Paug, 34; and Raymond Green Vance, 22.

Patrons at the club stopped the attack, knocked Aldrich to the ground and beat him. Richard Fierro, a war veteran, told reporters that he took Aldrich’s gun and repeatedly punched the suspect.

Fierro said his military training had begun when the shooting began and he wanted to protect everyone, including his family who were at the event. His daughter’s boyfriend was among the dead.

Colorado does not have the death penalty. Aldrich would risk life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted of first-degree murder.

However, Aldrich could face a death sentence in federal court if prosecutors decide to bring charges under the U.S. Code, which still has the death penalty on its books for certain crimes.

Aldrich had been held on hate crime charges, but prosecutors had previously said they were unsure if those counts would stand, as they had to assess whether there was enough evidence to show it was a bias-motivated crime.

District Attorney Michael Allen had noted that charges of murder carry the most severe penalty — likely life imprisonment — but he also said it was important to show the community that bias-motivated crimes will not be tolerated if there is evidence to support the charge .

Allen did not provide details of the allegations at Tuesday’s hearing, but said they contained “many instances of bias-motivated crimes.”

Judge Michael McHenry ordered the affidavit of the arrest warrant in the case to be opened Wednesday, despite the objections of Aldrich’s attorney, who said he was concerned about the defendant’s right to a fair trial due to publicity surrounding the case.

A motive for the shooting has not been found.

The attack took place during a transvestite’s birthday party and on the eve of a day of remembrance for transgender people lost to violence. Club Q was known as a haven for people from the LGBTQ community in the conservative-leaning city of Colorado Springs.

A patron who helped subdue the gunman, Thomas James, said he wanted to “save the family I found”, indicating the close relationships at the club.

The attack has drawn comparisons to the 2016 Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando, Florida, where a gunman entered a gay club and killed 49 people before being killed by police.

Aldrich, who uses she/she pronouns according to defense documents, was arrested by police at the club. After Aldrich’s initial appearance on Nov. 23, Allen said the defendant’s gender identity would not affect the prosecution of the case.

The shooting came amid an atmosphere of escalating anti-LGBTQ rhetoric in the United States that lawyers say could lead to violence.

The shooting also sparked debate about the prevalence of gun violence in the US.

More than a year before the shooting, Aldrich was arrested on charges of making a bomb threat that led to the evacuation of about 10 homes. Aldrich threatened to harm family members with a homemade bomb, ammunition and multiple weapons, authorities said at the time.

The case was later sealed and it is not clear what happened to the allegations, but there is no public evidence that they led to a conviction.

Colorado has a “red flag” law that allows firearms to be seized from people who have demonstrated that they can harm themselves or others, but it was not invoked.

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Merry C. Vega is a highly respected and accomplished news author. She began her career as a journalist, covering local news for a small-town newspaper. She quickly gained a reputation for her thorough reporting and ability to uncover the truth.

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