Shooting suspect held on murder, hate crime charges after 5 killed at LGBTQ bar in Colorado

The man suspected of opening fire at an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs was being held on murder and hate crimes charges Monday, two days after the attack that killed five people and left 17 others with gunshot wounds.

Online records showed that Anderson Lee Aldrich, 22, faced five murder charges and five charges of committing a bias-motivated crime causing bodily injury in Saturday night’s attack at Club Q. He remained hospitalized, but police would not give details about his injuries.

The charges were preliminary, and prosecutors had not filed them in court. The suspect would likely face further charges, which may be different from those listed in the arrest documents, Michael Allen, District Attorney for Colorado’s 4th Judicial District, told reporters Monday evening.

Allen said the suspect will likely make his first court appearance via video in the next couple of days, depending on his condition. Formal charges would be filed after that appearance, Allen said.

Hate crime charges would require proving that the gunman was motivated by the victims’ actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.

Mourners gather near the Club Q nightclub in Colorado Springs, Colo., on Sunday, after a mass shooting late the previous night left five dead and many others injured. Police say the suspect was subdued by bosses until officers arrived. (Kevin Mohatt/Reuters)

Cole Finegan, US Attorney for the District of Colorado, told reporters it was too early to say whether federal hate crimes charges might be ugly.

A law enforcement official said the suspect used an AR-15-style semiautomatic weapon in Saturday night’s attack at Club Q, but a handgun and additional ammunition magazines also were recovered.

18 injured, 13 still in hospital

Officials on Monday clarified that 18 people were hurt in the attack, not 25 as they said originally. Among them was one person whose injury was not a gunshot wound. Police had earlier said some of the survivors were hurt while trying to flee.

Thirteen people remained hospitalized Monday, officials said. At least five people had been treated and released. Mayor John Suthers said there was “reason to hope” all of the hospitalized victims would recover.

On Monday, Police Chief Adrian Vasquez identified the dead as Kelly Loving, Daniel Aston, Derek Rump, Ashley Paugh and Raymond Green Vance.

Aston, 28, was a transgender man and bartender at the club who also performed in shows as a dancer, according to a Colorado Public Radio interview with his mother, Sabrina Aston.

“He was the happiest he had ever been,” she said. “He was driving and having fun and having friends. It’s just unbelievable. He had so much more life to give to us and to all of his friends and to himself.”

Daniel Aston, a bartender at Club Q who also performed as a dancer in its shows, was one of the five people killed in the shooting. (Supplied by Jeff Aston/The Associated Press)

‘Heroic’ bosses stopped shooter

The attack was halted when two bosses subdued the shooter, officials said. One grabbed a handgun from the gunman, hit him with it and pinned him down until police arrived minutes later.

The two bosses were identified Monday as Richard Fierro and Thomas James.

Suthers said he had a chance to speak with Fierro on Monday.

“I have never encountered a person who had engaged in such heroic actions that was so humble about it. He simply said to me, ‘I was trying to protect my family,'” Suthers told the news conference.

Flowers and other items are seen at a makeshift memorial near Club Q on Monday. (David Zalubowski/The Associated Press)

Fierro’s wife, Jess, told Reuters on Monday that her daughter’s boyfriend was killed in the shooting.

She said her husband injured his hands, knees and ankle while seizing a pistol from the shooter and hitting him with it
to subdue him. She said the scene was “absolute havoc” and “terrifying.”

Suspect’s past threats probed

Already questions were being raised about why authorities didn’t seek to take Aldrich’s guns away from him in 2021, when he was arrested after his mother reported he threatened her with a homemade bomb and other weapons.

Sheriff’s deputies evacuated about 10 nearby homes until Aldrich eventually surrendered. They found no explosives but Aldrich was booked into the county jail on two counts of “felony menacing” and three counts of “first-degree kidnapping,” the press release said.

Hundreds of people gather at a memorial outside Club Q on Sunday. The shooting came just at the start of Sunday’s Transgender Day of Remembrance. (Christian Murdock/The Gazette/The Associated Press)

Gun control advocates are asking why police didn’t try to trigger Colorado’s “red flag” law, which would have allowed authorities to seize the weapons his mother says he had. There’s also no public record prosecutors ever moved forward with the felony kidnapping and threatening charges against Aldrich.

On Monday evening, Allen, the district attorney, told reporters that he was unable to comment about Aldrich’s past due to “very restrictive” Colorado laws under which court documents were automatically sealed when a court case was dismissed.

Asked whether the suspect had made threats about Club Q prior to the shooting, Colorado Springs police lieutenant Pamela Castro said that would be part of the investigation.

Rise in attacks, threats

Anxiety within many LGBTQ communities in the United States has risen amid a divisive political climate and after a string of threats and violence targeting LGBTQ people and events in recent months.

The shooting came during Transgender Awareness Week and just at the start of Sunday’s Transgender Day of Remembrance, when events around the world are held to mourn and remember transgender people lost to violence.

The shooting rekindled memories of the 2016 massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla., that killed 49 people. Colorado has experienced several mass killings, including at Columbine High School in 1999, a movie theater in suburban Denver in 2012 and at a Boulder supermarket last year.

It was the sixth mass killing in the US this month and came in a year when the nation was shaken by the deaths of 21 in a school shooting in Uvalde, Texas.

People hold a vigil at a makeshift memorial near Club Q on Sunday night. Gun control advocates are questioning why the suspect had access to guns after his past arrest for threatening his mother with weapons. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Support is available for anyone affected by this report. You can talk to a mental health professional via Wellness Together Canada by calling 1-866-585-0445 or text WELLNESS to 686868 for youth or 741741 for adults. It is free and confidential.

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