Colorado LGBTQ+ nightclub shooting suspect pleads guilty to 5 counts of murder

(COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo.) — The suspect in a mass shooting at LGBTQ bar Club Q in Colorado Springs, Colorado, that left five people dead accepted a plea deal Monday.

Anderson Lee Aldrich, who identifies as nonbinary, has pleaded guilty to five counts of murder in the first degree, 46 counts of attempted murder in the first degree. They pleaded no contest to two bias-motivated crimes.

Aldrich will receive five consecutive life sentences without the possibility for parole on the murder charges, according to Judge Michael McHenry. Aldrich will also receive 46 consecutive 48-year sentences for the attempted murder counts followed by mandatory periods of parole, according to the judge.

“Like too many other people in our culture, you chose to find a power that day behind the trigger of a gun. Your actions reflect the deepest malice of the human heart and malice is almost always born out of ignorance and fear,” said McHenry.

He continued, “The sentence of this court is the judgment of the people of the state of Colorado that such hate will not be tolerated and that the LGBTQ+ community is as much a part of the family of humanity as you are.”

They will plead no contest to “a class five felony bias-motivated crime and class one misdemeanor bias-motivated crime” with associated sentences, according to McHenry. They will also be sentenced to three years and 364 days respectively for the bias-motivated crimes.

Daniel Davis Aston, Kelly Loving, Derrick Rump, Ashley Paugh and Raymond Green Vance died in the attack. At least 19 people were also injured in the shooting.

“Ashley was an amazing woman who always showed so much love and kindness toward people,” Paugh’s sister, Stephanie Clark, said in court Monday. “My world was shattered the morning of Nov. 20.”

“The screams and the cries” of Paugh’s daughter after learning about her mother’s death “are forever etched in my mind,” Clark said, wishing Aldrich could hear it for themself.

“Raymond was 22 years old — a kind, loving, gentle man who touched a lot of people’s hearts,” said Adriana Vance, the mother of Green Vance. “He was always there for his family and friends … he never harmed a soul.”

Loving’s sister, Tiffany Loving, remembers her as “my compass, my best friend, my sister.”

“Just like that my sister become a number of a violent statistic” regarding the disproportionate rate of violence and victimization facing the transgender community,” Tiffany Loving said in a statement. Loving was a transgender woman. “She loved herself and wanted others to unapologetically be themselves.”

Investigators and witnesses said Aldrich opened fire as soon as they walked into Club Q before midnight on Nov. 19, 2022. Patrons at the venue tackled Aldrich, subduing them until police arrived, according to witnesses.

“You shot up my family,” said Laura Kent, the mother of Wyatt Kent, one of the survivors of the shooting whose partner and close friend were killed in the attack, at the hearing. “You will never understand the devastation you’ve caused.”

In February, preliminary hearings were held on whether the case against Aldrich was strong enough to move forward. Their defense attorneys focused on Aldrich’s mental health and highlighted Aldrich’s history of drug use and claimed they suffered abuse at home to counter the messaging that Aldrich was motivated by hate.

“Aldrich’s behavior after this incident says they’re sorry, upset and emotional about what they did,” defense attorney Joseph Archambault said in court. “It’s categorically different than someone who targets a group, and that’s not what Aldrich did.”

Lead investigators for the state said Aldrich administered and ran a website that hosted a “neo Nazi white supremacist” shooting training video, according to testimony from lead detective Rebecca Joines in the preliminary hearings. Joines also said that Aldrich used gay and racial slurs when playing video games online, in testimony aimed at Aldrich’s bias charges.

The defense has not openly commented on the case, as per Office of the State Public Defender policies.

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