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Suspect in Colorado Springs Club Q shooting faces 305 counts

Hate crimes are among the charges in the slaying of 5 and wounding of 17 at LGBTQ nightclub

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Signs bear messages of support in a memorial to the victims of a mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Heart-shaped signs bear messages of support in a makeshift memorial to the victims of a weekend mass shooting at a nearby gay nightclub on Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2022, in Colorado Springs, Colo.

David Zalubowski, Associated Press

Anderson Lee Aldrich has been charged with 305 criminal counts, after being accused by police of killing five people and wounding 17 others at a Colorado Springs, Colorado, nightclub Nov. 19. The charges include murder, attempted murder, assault and dozens of hate crime counts based on the number of people who were in the club at the time of the attack, per reports.

According to The Washington Post, which recounted the attack, Aldrich, 22, “allegedly entered Club Q, a haven for the city’s LGBTQ community, shortly before midnight armed with a pistol and an assault-style rifle and began firing. The attack ended when other patrons subdued the assailant, authorities say. Aldrich, appearing in court Tuesday for the second time since the shooting, did not speak at the hearing.”

The New York Times reported that the charges include 10 counts of first-degree murder, 86 counts of attempted murder and 48 counts of bias-motivated crimes.

Each murder was charged twice because “defendants can face multiple first-degree murder charges for each person they are accused of killing. That’s because there are multiple legal theories under which first-degree murder can be prosecuted in Colorado,” the Colorado Sun explained.

The article said that the defendant is being charged separately with “murder with deliberation” and “murder with extreme indifference” for each death.

Michael J. Allen, a Colorado Springs-area district attorney, said a conviction would bring life in prison without parole. There is no death penalty in Colorado.

“We’re not going to tolerate actions against community members based on their sexual identity, those types of things,” Allen told the media after the hearing. “Members of that community have been harassed, intimidated and abused for too long.”

The New York Times reported that the defendant is being held without bail in the El Paso County jail.

Prosecuting ‘hate’

No plea was entered and no motive has been suggested. “But the inclusion of charges of bias-motivated crimes, commonly known as hate crimes, by prosecutors suggests that they believe the attack was motivated specifically by antipathy toward the L.G.B.T.Q. community,” The New York Times article said.

In court filings, defense lawyers said the defendant identifies as nonbinary and uses “they/them” pronouns.

According to The Guardian, “Experts say someone who is nonbinary can be charged with a hate crime for targeting fellow members of the same group because hate crime laws are focused on the victims, not the perpetrator. But bringing a hate crime case to conviction can be difficult, because prosecutors must prove what motivated the defendant, a higher standard than usually required in court.”

Frank Pezzella, an associate professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, told The Guardian that Colorado prosecutors will need solid evidence, like statements the defendant made about the shooting, for him to be convicted of hate crimes.

The victims

As the Deseret News reported in November, authorities believe the death toll would have been higher when a gunman started shooting patrons, but a patron tackled him and another helped subdue him.

The man who attacked and beat the alleged gunman was identified as an Army veteran, Richard Fierro, who was at the club with family members and friends at the time. According to the Colorado Sun, the stranger who helped was identified as Thomas James.

The shooting victims have been identified as Raymond Green Vance, 22, who was Fierro’s daughter’s longtime boyfriend; Daniel Aston, 28, a bartender at Club Q; Kelly Loving, 40; Ashley Paugh, 35; and Derrick Rump, 38, who also worked at the club.

The judge set a preliminary hearing for February.