LGBTQ HATE CRIME - Anderson Lee Aldrich, the 23-year-old charged in the mass shooting at Club Q in Colorado Springs last November, has pled guilty to murder and attempted murder charges in the case.
Aldrich, who faced 305 criminal counts, pled guilty to five charges of murder in the first degree and 46 charges of attempted first-degree murder.
Aldrich pleaded no contest to two hate crimes, one a felony and the other a misdemeanor.
Family members of the victims told the Associated Press that Aldrich will avoid the death penalty as part of the plea agreement. He faces life in prison.
In statements to the court as Aldrich looked on, family members were by turns unforgiving and relieved.
“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.”
In his guilty plea, Alrich told Judge Michael McHenry, “I intentionally and after deliberation caused the death of each victim.”
The admission comes after Aldrich spoke with the AP last week in a series of phone conversations from prison, where he has been held without bail since the shooting in November.
“I have to take responsibility for what happened,” the 23-year-old said then in their first public comments about the case.
Aldrich’s attorney has said he identifies as nonbinary.
The declaration came as prosecutors in the case notified victims that Aldrich would accept a plea deal guaranteeing life in prison, according to some of the survivors contacted by state authorities.
Victims called Aldrich’s mea culpa a disingenuous attempt to avoid the federal death penalty, as he described his actions in generalities like “I just can’t believe what happened” and “I wish I could turn back time.” Those claims are at odds with the evidence of premeditation.
“No one has sympathy for him,” said Michael Anderson, who was bartending at the club that night as patrons were gunned down around him. “This community has to live with what happened, with collective trauma, with PTSD, trying to grieve the loss of our friends, to move past emotional wounds and move past what we heard, saw, and smelled.”
When asked by the reporter if the attack was motivated by hate, Aldrich said the claim was “completely off base.”
“I don’t know if this is common knowledge but I was on a very large plethora of drugs,” Aldrich said. “I had been up for days. I was abusing steroids…. I’ve finally been able to get off that crap I was on.”
“Nothing’s ever going to bring back their loved ones,” he said at the time. “People are going to have to live with injury that can’t be repaired.”
Colorado does not have the death penalty. It was banned in a 2020 law signed by out Gov. Jared Polis (D). But Aldrich is being charged in federal court and will avoid the federal death penalty.
(Greg Owen is a writer for LGBTQ Nation where this article was first published.)