Federal Hate Crimes Charges Are Brought Against the Person Who Killed Five People at an LGBTQ+ Club in Colorado

Federal Hate Crimes Charges Are Brought Against the Person Who Killed Five People at an LGBTQ+ Club in Colorado

DENVER — The shooter who killed five people and hurt 19 others at an LGBTQ+ club that was a safe space in the conservative city of Colorado Springs pleaded guilty to federal hate crimes on Tuesday and was given 55 life sentences in prison. He still refused to say sorry to the families of the victims or do anything else to help them.

Still, prosecutors stressed how important it was for Anderson Lee Aldrich to be held accountable for the hatred he expressed toward LGBTQ+ people, which they say led to the mass killing. As part of a plea deal, Aldrich admitted over and over again on Tuesday that there was proof of hate.

“The community of Club Q and the government both want it to be known that these were hate crimes,” said lawyer Alison Connaughty.

Connaughty said that Aldrich struck a place that was more than just a bar. He said that Club Q was a safe place for LGBTQ+ people.

“People told us, ‘This place saved my life, and I could feel normal again,'” she said. Aldrich’s term “sends a message that acts of hate will be met with harsh consequences.”

Aldrich, who is 24 years old, is already in jail for life after pleading guilty to state charges last year. Federal officials worked hard to show that the attack on the LGBTQ+ safe space on November 19, 2022, was planned and motivated by bias.

U.S. District Judge Charlotte Sweeney, who is the first openly gay federal judge in Colorado, heard heartbreaking stories from victims before agreeing to the deal, which includes 190 years in prison on gun charges and other counts.

Some of the survivors said they wanted the death penalty, but Sweeney said that the lawyers had not asked for the death penalty and that it would have to be decided by a jury. After getting a life sentence, there will be no more long appeals or meetings where a hate crime defendant could become a symbol. She said Aldrich would have “a miserable future, with a miserable end” and would never get out of jail.

The survivors told horrifying stories about the killing and the pain and fear they’ve felt ever since. A lot of people wanted Aldrich to be killed. One victim’s father said that Aldrich “should be shot like a dog.”

She said she woke up screaming because her son Raymond Green Vance was killed.

She said, “The only thing I have left of him is the urn that I talk to every night.” She said Aldrich “knows nothing but hate” and should be killed.

One survivor, who was enjoying her birthday and performing as a drag queen that night, said she forgave Aldrich and talked about how the community could find happiness despite the pain.

Wilatt Kent said, “I’ve had to look at my partner in a casket, go to the funerals of my friends, and deal with unspeakable trauma.” “I see this person as someone who is hurt because of problems with systems that are supposed to help them.” I’m sorry. “We, the LGBTQ community, are the strong ones.”

Aldrich, who was wearing an orange jail uniform, had his head shaved, and his wrists were handcuffed. He stood facing the victims as they spoke, but when he was given the chance, he refused to say anything himself. David Kraut, the defense lawyer, didn’t say anything directly about hate or bias in his statements.

Kraut said there was no one reason for the mass shooting, but he did say that his client was more likely to commit extreme violence if he had a traumatic childhood, an abused mother, was exposed to extremism online, used drugs, or had easy access to guns.

Hate crimes were fought in the state case by defense lawyers who said Aldrich was high on cocaine and medicine. When The Associated Press called him from jail last year, Aldrich wouldn’t say for sure if the attack was hate-related; he would only say, “That’s completely off base.” Aldrich had already pleaded “not guilty” to state hate crime charges, which means he didn’t say he was guilty.

Counaughty said that Aldrich’s hatred for the LGBTQ+ community was shown by two websites he made with hateful content, a target in his house with a rainbow ring that had bullet holes in it, and the fact that the defendant shared recordings of 911 calls from the 2016 shooting at Orlando, Florida’s gay-friendly Pulse nightclub.

The prosecutor said Aldrich also looked into other mass shootings, gathered guns, shared an online manifesto from a mass shooter who called being transgender a “disease,” and was in charge of sending spam emails to a gay former boss.

Prosecutors said that between September 2020 and the attack, Aldrich bought guns from over a hundred different sellers for more than $9,000. There was a hand-drawn map of Club Q with an entry and exit point marked inside Aldrich’s flat. There was also a black binder with training materials called “How to handle an active shooter.”

In the state case, Aldrich’s lawyers said that he or she is nonbinary and uses they/them names. A state prosecutor said that was an attempt to remain free of blame for hate crimes.

Ashtin Gamblin was shot nine times while working at the front door of Club Q. He told The AP that a real LGBTQ+ person would know about the abuse and mental health problems that members of the community face and wouldn’t attack a safe place for them to be.

Aldrich went to the club at least eight times before coming back in a tactical vest and carrying an AR-15-style gun. He killed someone in the entranceway, then shot bartenders and customers, and finally went after people on the dance floor.

Connaughty said, “The defendant was ready to do the most damage in the least amount of time.” He also said that Aldrich shot 60 rounds in less than a minute.

An officer in the Navy grabbed the barrel of the gun and burned his hand. An Army veteran then helped restrain Aldrich until the police came.

There was a chance to stop this kind of violence: Aldrich was caught in June 2021 on charges of making threats against their grandparents and promising to become “the next mass killer” while gathering weapons, body armor, and materials to make bombs. But Aldrich’s mother and grandparents refused to help, and prosecutors didn’t serve subpoenas to family members that would have kept the case going. In the end, the charges were dropped.

Aldrich was given his sentence on Tuesday under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. This law added crimes inspired by sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability to federal law in 2009.

The man who shot us must have thought he took our spirit that night, said Ed Sanders, who was hit in the leg and back. “You can’t destroy our community by killing people.” “You can’t kill our spirit and love.”

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