Colorado Club Q shooting: Attacker sentenced to life in prison after pleading guilty
The attacker who killed five individuals at an LGBT club in Colorado last year has been condemned to life in prison after pleading guilty to murder and attempted murder.
Victims called Anderson Lee Aldrich, 23, a “coward” and a “monster” for the rampage at Club Q in Colorado Springs on 19 November 2022.
The shooting was stopped by club-goers, who subdued the attacker until police arrived.
The attack left 17 others injured.
The victims who were killed were Daniel Aston, 28; Derrick Rump, 38; Kelly Loving, 40; Ashley Paugh, 34; and, Raymond Vance, 22.
As part of a plea deal, the attacker was sentenced to five consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole, and 46 consecutive 48-year sentences for the attempted murders, in addition to pleading “no contest” to charges of bias-motivated crimes.
“When you commit a hate crime, you are targeting a group of people for their simple existence,” Judge Michael McHenry said. “The sentence in this court is that such hate will not be tolerated.”
Judge McHenry added that he believes Aldrich’s actions “reflect the deepest malice of the human heart”.
“And malice is almost always born of ignorance and fear,” Judge McHenry added.
Family members of some of the victims addressed the court after the plea.
“This thing sitting in this courtroom is not a human, it is a monster,” said Jessica Fierro, whose daughter Kassandra was injured and her daughter’s boyfriend Raymond killed that night.
“The devil awaits with open arms.”
Sabrina Aston, whose late son Daniel was one of Club Q’s bartenders, said: “I will never forgive you for this heinous crime.”
Daniel’s partner Wyatt Kent said he chose to forgive Aldrich, who he said was “a symbol of a broken system, of hate and vitriol pushed against us as a community”.
“What brings joy to me is that this hurt individual will never be able to see the joy and the light that has been wrought into our community as an outcome,” he added.
Adriana Vance, the mother of Raymond Vance, said Aldrich “doesn’t deserve to go on. What matters now is that he never sees the sunrise or the sunset.”
Aldrich declined to address the court ahead of the sentencing and showed no emotion as the families made statements.
The attacker, whose lawyers say identifies as non-binary, asked the court on Monday to use the gender-neutral honorific Mx.
Their defense attorney said Aldrich is “deeply remorseful and deeply sorry” and “knows they can’t do anything to make it better”.
In a recent interview with the Associated Press news agency, Aldrich said they felt a need to “take responsibility for what happened”. They also claimed they were “on a very large plethora of drugs” at the time.
When asked by the judge on Monday, Aldrich said they remain on a variety of medications, including mood stabilizers and antipsychotic drugs.
Aldrich’s version of the event was disputed by District Attorney Michael Allen, who called Aldrich’s comments “self-serving in nature” and “disgusting”.
He added that the evidence suggests months of planning and premeditation by Aldrich, including intentionally evading background checks to purchase weapons and communicating “a hatred for minorities and those in the LGBTQ+ community”.
“These victims were targeted for who they were and are,” Mr Allen said. “The targeting of groups will not be tolerated”.
The shooting – which lasted six minutes – was ended when Richard Fierro, a 15-year US Army veteran, tackled the attacker.
As Mr. Fierro and Aldrich wrestled on the ground, a drag show performer pummelled Aldrich with a high-heel shoe.
In court on Monday, Mr. Fierro referred to Mr. Aldrich as a “terrorist” who “brought combat” to innocent people at Club Q.
“I had more respect for the adversaries I fought overseas than I do for this individual,” he said. “I hope the words I yelled into the back of your head that night echo for the rest of your life.”
Aldrich had previously been arrested in Colorado Springs in June 2021 after threatening to detonate a bomb and harm their mother, court documents show.
The charges were dropped despite relatives warning the judge in that case that Aldrich remained a danger to the public.