DENVER — The suspect accused of entering a Colorado Springs gay nightclub and killing five people and wounding 17 others was formally charged with hate crimes as well as murder on Tuesday.
Investigators say Anderson Lee Aldrich entered Club Q, a sanctuary for the LGBTQ community in this mostly conservative city, just before midnight on Nov. 19 and began shooting during a drag queen’s birthday celebration. The killing stopped after patrons wrestled the suspect to the ground, beating Aldrich into submission, they said.
Aldrich, 22, had been held on hate crime charges but prosecutors had said previously they weren’t sure if those counts would stick because they needed to assess if there was adequate evidence to show it was a bias motivated crime.
District Attorney Michael Allen had noted that murder charges would carry the harshest penalty — likely life in prison — but also said it was important to show the community that bias motivated crimes are not tolerated if there was evidence to support the charge.
Aldrich, who is nonbinary and uses they/them pronouns according to defense court filings, was arrested at the club by police. They have not entered a plea or spoken about the events.
According to witnesses, Aldrich fired first at people gathered at the club’s bar before spraying bullets across the dance floor during the attack, which came on the eve of an annual day of remembrance for transgender people lost to violence.
Story by Colleen Slevin, Associated Press.