A suspect from a mass shooting that occurred in 2022 at the LGBTQ bar Club Q in Colorado Springs pleaded guilty on Monday.
Anderson Lee Aldrich, who reportedly identifies as Non-binary, was accused of fatally shooting five people and wounding seventeen at the nightclub on November 19th, 2022.
Aldrich accepted a plea deal that sentenced him to life in prison without the possibility of parole in exchange for pleading guilty to five counts of first degree murder. He also pleaded guilty to 46 counts of attempted first degree murder.
The suspect pleaded no contest to “a class five felony bias-motivated crime and class one misdemeanor bias-motivated crime” with associated sentences, according to Judge Michael McHenry.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Aldrich reportedly admitted to being on a “large plethora of drugs” as well as abusing steroids at that time. He also expressed regret for the attack and claimed that being motivated by hate was “completely off base.”
“Aldrich’s behavior after this incident says [they’re] sorry, upset and emotional about what they did,” said Defense Attorney Joseph Archambault in court, respecting Aldrich’s “they” pronouns. “It’s categorically different than someone who targets a group, and that’s not what Aldrich did.”
In a court hearing earlier this year, law enforcement testified claiming that Aldrich had used gay and racial slurs often while gaming online. In defense, Aldrich’s team of attorneys claimed that his “abusive” mother forced him to go to LGBTQ clubs.
During the attack, two veterans who were present at the club helped stop the madness by disarming and beating the suspect. Aldrich was facing more than 300 state counts, which included murder and numerous hate crimes. The Justice Department is also considering seeking federal hate charges, according to senior law enforcement.
Aldrich originally hinted at plans to carry out an attack a year before the Club Q shooting. In 2021, Aldrich’s grandparents reportedly told law enforcement about his plans to become “the next mass killer.” Aldrich was then arrested after a standoff with SWAT officers.
However, those charges were eventually thrown out in July 2022 when Aldrich’s mother and grandparents were unwilling to cooperate with prosecutors, evading efforts to serve them with subpoenas to testify. Relative’s of the suspect told a judge that they feared Aldrich would harm his grandparents in some way if he was released, as he had spent $30,000, which was largely spent to 3D-print guns.
Aldrich was released from jail, yet nothing stopped him from purchasing more firearms since his case had been dropped. There was no new evidence that could be used to prove that Andrich posed a threat “in the near future,” according to the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office.
It was later revealed that the two guns Aldrich used in the Club Q attack were “ghost guns,” untraceable black market firearms without serial numbers that were illegally obtained.
Many of the victims’ family members spoke out during the hearing on Monday, calling the suspect “cowardly” and a “monster.”
“This thing sitting in this court room is not a human, it is a monster,” said Jessica Fierro, whose daughter’s boyfriend was killed that night. “The devil awaits with open arms.”
Others in the courtroom took a different approach and forgave the killer as they gave statements remembering the loved ones they lost.
“I forgive this individual, as they are a symbol of a broken system, of hate and vitriol pushed against us as a community,” said Wyatt Kent, a partner of one of the victims killed. “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.”
Aldrich was shaking subtly in court, occasionally looking up at photographs of the victims as family members spoke out.