US gay club shooter charged with 305 criminal counts, including hate crime

Prosecutors have filed 305 criminal counts, including hate crimes and murder, on the gunman who allegedly killed five people at a gay nightclub in Colorado last month.

Colorado gay nightclub accused

Aldrich (accused) in a court facing 305 charges including murder and hate crimes. (The Associated Press)

by the associated pressProsecutors on Tuesday charged 305 criminal counts, including hate crimes and murder, with the man suspected of storming a Colorado gay nightclub wearing body armor and firing an AR-15-style rifle, killing five people and wounding 17 others.

The count against Anderson Lee Aldrich includes 48 hate crime charges, one for each person present at the club at the time.

Investigators say Aldrich, 22, entered Club Q, a sanctuary for the LGBTQ community in the most conservative city of Colorado Springs, shortly before midnight on November 19 and began shooting during a drag queen’s birthday celebration. The killing stopped when patrons pinned the suspect to the ground, beating Aldrich into submission, he said.

Aldrich sat up straight and appeared alert during Tuesday’s hearing. In an earlier court appearance days after the shooting, the defendant was covered with bruises on the head and face – and was led by lawyers to answer questions from a judge.

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Aldrich was arrested more than a year after the shooting after a standoff with SWAT teams after authorities say Aldrich stockpiled guns, ammo and body armor threatening to become “the next mass killer.” But the charges were dropped, records were sealed and prosecutors say they legally cannot talk about what happened.

Of the 48 hate crime charges, 27 involve injury and 21 involve injury to people or damage to property. Police have said that in addition to those killed or wounded by the gunshots, five people were not shot and that the other victims “had no injuries.”

Club Q co-owner Matthew Haynes said the filing of the 305 charges “underline how heinous and appalling this attack was on our community.”

For Haynes, dozens of letters on his desk were filled with negative comments, some saying the shooter was doing God’s work, reinforcing his concerns about people he said spread hate.

Haynes said, “Those sentiments still haven’t been waived by the far-right, the leaders in this country aren’t standing up in unison and saying, ‘Hey, no hate, this is too much. ‘” “How many more must suffer?”

Aldrich was charged with hate crimes after the attack, but prosecutors previously said they were not sure whether these counts would stand because they needed to assess whether there was enough evidence to show that was a bias motivated crime.

District Attorney Michael Allen noted that the murder charges would carry the harshest penalties – the potential for life in prison – but added that it was important to demonstrate to the community that bias-motivated crimes would be tolerated if the evidence supported the allegation. is not done.

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In a news conference after the hearing, Allen declined to discuss what evidence prosecutors found to back the hate crimes charges. However, he added that a recent change in Colorado law allows perpetrators charged with hate crimes even if they are partially motivated by prejudice.

“If it weren’t for that change, we probably wouldn’t have been able to charge it in this case,” he said.

Judge Michael McHenry ordered the arrest warrant affidavit to be unsealed Wednesday over objections from defense attorney Joseph Archambault, who cited concerns about his client’s right to a fair trial because of the publicity surrounding the case.

Aldrich is nonbinary and uses they/them pronouns, according to the defense’s court filings. He was arrested at the club by police and did not enter a plea or talk about the events.

Allen said the suspect being non-binary was “part of the picture” in considering hate crime charges, but he would not elaborate.

“We are not going to tolerate actions against members of the community based on their sexual identity,” Allen said. “Members of that community have been harassed, bullied and abused for far too long.”

Experts say a non-binary person can be charged with a hate crime for targeting fellow members of the LGBTQ community because hate crime laws focus on the victim, not the suspect. But getting a hate crime conviction can be difficult because prosecutors must prove what motivated the defendant, a higher standard usually required in court.

Frank Pezzella, an associate professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said Colorado prosecutors would need concrete evidence such as the statements Aldrich may have made about the shooting.

“It should be more than (he) shooting Club Q,” he said.

Haynes said he is encouraged by the district attorney’s assurance that he will prosecute to the fullest extent of the law.

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The co-owner, who remembers Christian protesters outside Club Q when it first opened in 2003, also commended the police and FBI for being sensitive to victims’ preferred pronouns and chosen names. He said the mayor’s office is working with the co-owners to remodel Club Q and establish a memorial for the victims.

“Twenty years ago it would have been very, very different,” Haynes said.

According to witnesses, Aldrich first fired at people gathered at the club’s bar before spraying bullets onto the dance floor during the attack, which came on the eve of the annual Day of Remembrance for Transgender People Targeted by Violence.