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Colorado shooter Aldrich to be sentenced for federal hate crime charges

Aldrich already serving life terms without parole for state charges related to the shooting.

An exterior view of Club Q is seen in February 2023, in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Photo by David Zalubowski/AP/File via CNN Newsource

Club Q shooter to be sentenced on federal charges for hate crimes and firearm violations

Originally Published: 18 JUN 24 05:23 ET
Updated: 18 JUN 24 12:05 ET

(CNN) — The shooter who opened fire in a Colorado LGBTQ+ nightclub in 2022, killing five people and injuring 19, is set to be sentenced for federal hate crime charges and firearm violations Tuesday.

In January, Anderson Lee Aldrich agreed to plead guilty to 74 federal hate crime charges and gun charges in connection with the shooting. Prosecutors chose not to pursue the death penalty in the case.

In a news release announcing the plea agreement, the US Department of Justice called the attack “willful, deliberate” and “malicious,” alleging it was committed “because of the actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity of any person.”

Aldrich, 24, pleaded guilty in 2023 to state charges in the shooting and is already serving five consecutive life terms and an additional 2,212 years without the possibility of parole at the Wyoming State Penitentiary.

“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 and meet the goals of sentencing,” said a Justice Department statement submitted to the court.

The document describes the shooting as “a bias-motivated, premeditated, mass-casualty attack.” Aldrich had expressed an open hatred for the LGBTQ+ community and had indicated an interest in mass shootings before, according to the document.

Aldrich began the massacre at the club as patrons were gathering for Transgender Day of Remembrance, for which Club Q had scheduled a weekend of events, including a drag show. The club was one of the few LGBTQ+ spaces in Colorado Springs and became known for fostering a safe and inclusive atmosphere in a conservative community.

The shooter spent more than $9,000 buying weapons and visited the club several times before, becoming familiar with the layout, according to the sentencing document.

Then, in the late hours of November 19, 2022, the then-22-year-old entered the club carrying an AR-15 style assault rifle and began “firing at everyone in sight,” according to the sentencing document. Some patrons hid or played dead as Aldrich moved though the club, shooting indiscriminately.

The violence came to an end when an army veteran took down the shooter, aided by a Navy petty officer and a drag performer at the club.

Two employees at the bar, Derrick Rump and Daniel Aston, were killed, as well as Ashley Paugh, Kelly Loving and Raymond Green Vance.

Several victims who were shot but survived have required surgery for their injuries and continue to face medical challenges, including loss of mobility and post-traumatic stress disorder.

The shooting provided an echo of the devastating 2016 shooting at Pulse, an LGBTQ+ nightclub in Orlando, Florida, which left 49 people dead.

For Colorado Springs’ queer community, the mass shooting was traumatic. The club served as a crucial safe haven for people from a variety of backgrounds living in a conservative stronghold. One trans man who worked as a drag king at Club Q told CNN after the shooting, “Our safety as queer people in Colorado Springs is now questioned. I’m scared to be myself as a trans man in this community.”

Aldrich has faced heavy sentencing for the brutal attack: The 2023 sentence was the second-longest ever given in Colorado, behind only the 2012 Aurora theater mass shooting, according to the district attorney.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

Correction: A previous version of this story misstated the status of Anderson Lee Aldrich’s plea. The shooter agreed in January to plead guilty to federal charges stemming from the Club Q shooting.

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