Colorado LGBTQ+ nightclub shooter pleads guilty to federal hate crimes

EL PASO COUNTY, Colo. — The shooter who killed five people and injured more than a dozen others in 2022 at an LGBTQ+ club in Colorado Springs pleaded guilty to 50 federal hate crime charges on Tuesday.

Anderson Lee Aldrich, a 24-year-old who is nonbinary and uses they/them pronouns, entered the plea under a deal with prosecutors that allowed them to avoid the death penalty, The Associated Press reported.

They are already serving five consecutive life terms in prison after pleading guilty to state charges last year.

Aldrich sentenced to 55 concurrent life sentences

Update 3:55 p.m. EDT June 18: A judge on Tuesday sentenced Aldrich to serve 55 concurrent life sentences with an added 190-year sentence with no possibility for parole after they pleaded guilty to federal charges, The Washington Post reported.

In all, Aldrich pleaded guilty to 74 federal counts, including 50 hate crime charges, according to the newspaper.

Aldrich declined to address the victim’s families on Tuesday, though they admitted to evidence that hatred motivated their crime as part of their plea agreement, The Associated Press reported.

“You targeted this community where it lives and breathes,” Sweeney told Aldrich in court, according to the Post. “You went to this community space and mass murdered people. This sentence serves to deter others that are full of hatred.”

Original report: Prosecutors said in court records that they planned to ask that Aldrich be sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole followed by an additional 190-year sentence.

“The defendant’s brazen and calculated attacks on the employees and patrons of Club Q, and the impact of the defendant’s actions on the greater LGBTQIA+ community, warrant this sentence,” acting U.S. Attorney Matthew Kirsch wrote in the government’s sentencing statement.

“After the defendant’s senseless acts of hatred and violence, Club Q looked like a war zone,” he added.

U.S. District Judge Charlotte Sweeney said Tuesday that she would wait until after hearing from anyone who wanted to address the court before deciding whether or not to accept the plea agreement, The New York Times reported.

Last year, survivors and relatives of those slain gave emotional statements in court ahead of Aldrich’s sentencing on state charges. Stephanie Clark tearfully described having to tell her father and her 11-year-old niece about the death of her sister, Ashley Paugh.

“The screams and the cries of ‘No, no, no’ and begging us to please do something to bring her mommy back are forever etched in my mind,” she said, “that is something I wish that he would have to hear every day of the rest of his life.”

Aldrich walked into Club Q on the night of Nov. 19, 2022, armed with an AR-15-style assault rifle and wearing a tactical vest, and immediately began shooting, authorities said. They shot and killed five people in the entryway and bar of the club before firing from the dance floor.

Club patrons managed to subdue Aldrich until authorities arrived. In all, 25 people were injured.

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