News (USA)

Club Q shooter sentenced to 190 years in prison for federal hate crime charges

Anderson Lee Aldrich
Anderson Lee Aldrich Photo: Colorado Springs Police

Anderson Lee Aldrich – the allegedly nonbinary shooter who killed five and injured 19 at the LGBTQ+ nightclub Club Q in Colorado Springs in November 2022 – has been sentenced to 55 concurrent life sentences to run consecutively with 190 years in prison after pleading guilty to 74 hate crimes and firearms charges connected to their November 19, 2022 mass shooting.

While Aldrich’s plea deal allows them to avoid the death penalty, Aldrich admitted that their attack was in part motivated because of the actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity of their target, the Department of Justice said in a statement.

Prosecutors said that Aldrich premeditated their attack against the Club Q in Colorado Springs, Colorado — home to one of the nation’s oldest anti-LGBTQ+ hate groups —because it served as a meeting place for the local queer community. Aldrich’s defense attorneys said the shooter had abused cocaine and medication just before the shooting, altering their mental state during the shooting. 

“The 2022 mass shooting at Club Q is one of the most violent crimes against the LGBTQIA+ community in history,” said FBI Director Christopher Wray in a statement following Aldrich’s conviction. “The FBI and our partners have worked tirelessly towards this sentencing, but the true heroes are the patrons of the Club who selflessly acted to subdue the defendant. This Pride Month and every month, the FBI stands with the survivors, victims, and families of homophobic violence and hate.”

In a statement, Attorney General Merrick B. Garland said, “The Justice Department is committed to protecting the right of every person in this country to live free from the fear that they will be targeted by hate-fueled violence or discrimination based on who they are or who they love.”

When Aldrich pleaded guilty to five counts of first-degree murder and 46 counts of attempted murder in June 2023, they received five consecutive life sentences without parole, an additional 2,208 years in prison, and another four years for state hate crime charges, CNN reported. At the time, family members of shooting victims read unforgiving statements in Aldrich’s presence.

“This thing sitting in this courtroom is not a human. It is a monster,” said Jessica Fierro, whose daughter’s boyfriend was killed in the shooting. “The devil awaits with open arms.”

“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, Club Q bartender Daniel Aston’s partner, who died in the massacre. “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.”

However, Club Q spokesperson Michael Anderson said, “What the shooter chose to do on November 19, 2022, was a malicious and bigoted act of violence meant to deprive countless lives of those rights – including my own. While justice cannot undo the bullets fired, lives forever changed, and friends we’ve lost on that horrific night, I hope these additional charges will serve as a deterrent from any other individual seeking to commit violence.”

The Club Q shooting occurred in the early morning hours in a city that serves as the home to Focus on the Family, one of the nation’s oldest anti-LGBTQ+ hate groups. Anti-LGBTQ+ right-wing media figures like Tucker Carlson, Matt Walsh, Steven Crowder, and others alternately denied responsibility for fomenting hatred against queer people before the shooting and said that LGBTQ+ people caused the mass murder by allegedly supporting non-existent “child genital mutilation.”

Aldrich’s lawyers say that they identify as nonbinary and use they/them pronouns, though many suspect Aldrich’s newfound identity is merely an additional way for the shooter to troll the queer community. Indeed, right-wingers recently included Aldrich in a meme listing recent suspected LGBTQ+-identified shooters as a way to suggest that queer – and particularly trans and nonbinary – people are mentally ill and a threat to public safety.

Colorado District Attorney Michael Allen said Aldrich’s claim of being nonbinary is part of an effort to avoid hate crime charges, saying there was no evidence of Aldrich identifying as nonbinary before the shooting. Considering the plea deal that was ultimately reached, though, that tactic appears unsuccessful.

They planned the attack in advance, prosecutors said, making a map of Club Q and visiting the club at least six times prior to the attack. Aldrich was taken down by a military veteran less than a minute after the shooting began. One patron stomped on the suspect with her high-heeled shoes while the veteran held him down.

Detective Rebecca Joines testified that Aldrich ran a neo-Nazi website featuring a white supremacist training video glorifying mass shootings and posting an image of a Pride parade with a rifle scope on it. They also used anti-LGBTQ+ and racist slurs while gaming. 

After the shooting, President Joe Biden sent a letter to the bar’s owners expressing his “deepest condolences” and stating the need for “a ban on assault weapons” and “other common-sense gun safety measures.” Six months later, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D) signed four new gun control bills into law.

Club Q announced that it would reopen in fall 2023 with enhanced security measures. Survivors of the shooting say they feel hope for the community as it continues to heal from the violence.

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