Local and federal law enforcement officials continue their investigation at the Club Q nightclub on Nov. 22, 2022, in Colorado Springs. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)
The suspect in last month’s deadly mass shooting at a Colorado Springs LGBTQ nightclub was formally charged Tuesday on more than 300 counts including first-degree murder, attempted murder, assault and “bias-motivated crimes.”
Investigators allege that Anderson Lee Aldrich, 22, entered Club Q just before midnight on Nov. 19 and began firing at patrons with a rifle. Five people were killed and 17 others suffered gunshot wounds. Aldrich appeared in court in person for the first time Tuesday, but did not speak.
“We are taking this case as seriously as we possibly can,” 4th Judicial District Attorney Michael Allen said in a press conference following Tuesday’s court hearing. “We are going to prosecute this case to the fullest extent of the law.”
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Colorado’s hate-crimes statute defines a bias-motivated crime as committing an offense “with the intent to intimidate or harass another person because of that person’s actual or perceived race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, physical or mental disability, or sexual orientation.”
“We think that there’s enough evidence to satisfy our burden on bias-motivated offenses,” Allen added. “We’re not going to tolerate actions against community members based on their sexual identity. Members of that community have been harassed, intimidated and abused for too long.”
Aldrich, who was confronted and beaten by two Club Q patrons, had been arrested on suspicion of murder and hate crimes and held without bond at the El Paso County Jail.
Judge Michael McHenry ordered the arrest affidavit in the case to be unsealed late Wednesday, following a motion from prosecutors to delay its release to allow more time to notify victims and their families of what may be contained in the document.
McHenry also partially granted a motion from Aldrich’s defense attorneys to ensure that their client’s visitor logs and medical records while being held in custody remain sealed. At prosecutors’ request, however, the order does not apply to incident reports relating to Aldrich’s behavior at the jail, which they said may be relevant to the ongoing investigation.
Aldrich’s lawyers wrote in court filings last month that their client is non-binary and uses they/them pronouns. Defense attorney Joseph Archambault, a state public defender, referred to his client as “Mx. Aldrich” during Tuesday’s hearing.
El Paso County Jail booking records list Aldrich’s gender as male, and text messages reviewed by the Daily Beast from the day of the shooting showed Aldrich’s mother referring to her son with he/him pronouns, the outlet reported. A former neighbor also reported that Aldrich frequently used anti-gay slurs, and some LGBTQ advocates have questioned whether Aldrich’s nonbinary identification is meant to further antagonize the community.
The shooting came amid a nationwide wave of violence, intimidation and harassment against LGBTQ people by right-wing extremists. Inclusive events like drag queen story hours have been canceled due to threats in Colorado and across the country, while bomb scares have repeatedly targeted hospitals over transgender care. Several of the deceased victims have been identified by family and friends as members of the LGBTQ community.
Allen deflected questions from reporters about the investigation into the shooting and Aldrich’s possible motives, noting that investigators’ work is likely to continue for months.
“We obviously think we have enough evidence to go forward with (bias-motivated) charges,” Allen said at Tuesday’s press conference. “I’m going to leave it at that.”
McHenry ordered the next hearing in the case to be scheduled for Feb. 22.
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