DENVER (AP) — The suspect accused of entering a Colorado gay nightclub clad in body armor and opening fire with an AR-15-style rifle, killing five people and wounding 17 others, is set to appear in court again Tuesday to learn what charges prosecutors will pursue in the attack, including possible hate crime counts.
Investigators say Anderson Lee Aldrich entered Club Q, a sanctuary for the LGBTQ community in the mostly conservative city of Colorado Springs, 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, who is nonbinary and uses they/them pronouns according to defense court filings, was arrested at the club by police and held on suspicion of murder and hate crimes while District Attorney Michael Allen determined what charges to pursue against them. Allen has noted that murder charges would carry the harshest penalty — likely life in prison — and charging Aldrich with bias-motivated crimes would not lead to a harsher punishment.
But at a Nov. 21 news conference, Allen did say that, if there was evidence to support bias motivated crimes, it was still important to pursue them to send the message “that we support communities that have been maligned, harassed, intimidated and abused.”
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.
More than a year before the shooting, Aldrich was arrested on allegations of making a bomb threat that led to the evacuation of about 10 homes. Aldrich threatened to harm their own family with a homemade bomb, ammunition and multiple weapons, authorities said at the time. Aldrich was booked into jail on suspicion of felony menacing and kidnapping, but the case was apparently later sealed and it’s unclear what became of the charges. There are no public indications that the case led to a conviction.
Ring doorbell video obtained by the AP shows Aldrich arriving at their mother’s front door with a big black bag, telling her the police were nearby and adding, “This is where I stand. Today I die.”