On Tuesday, December 6, the suspect accused of the mass shooting at LGBTQ+ venue Club Q in Colorado Springs was officially charged with 305 counts, including murder and hate crimes.
Anderson Lee Aldrich was arrested after he entered Club Q, a bar that was considered a sanctuary for the LGBTQ+ community in Colorado Springs, and began shooting at the crowd, killing five people and injuring 17. Since then, the Club Q suspect was detained on preliminary charges until yesterday, when they appeared in court and were formally charged by prosecutors with 305 criminal counts.
The counts against Aldrich include first-degree murder, assault, attempted murder and 48 hate crime charges, one for each person known to be present at the club that night. The hate crimes charges are divided into 27 counts involving injuries and 21 involving people fearing injury or property damage.
According to District Attorney Michael Allen, murder charges will carry the harshest penalty, but he stressed the importance of the hate crime charges in showing to the LGBTQ+ community that these attacks are not tolerated.
“We are not going to tolerate actions against community members based on their sexual identity,” Allen commented. “Members of that community have been harassed, intimidated and abused for too long.”
According to defence court filings, Aldrich is non-binary and uses they/them pronouns. Attorney Allen said that this was “part of the picture” in considering bias-motivated crime charges against the suspect, but he didn’t elaborate further. Experts explain that a non-binary individual can be charged with hate crimes against the LGBTQ+ community because criminal laws focus on the victims, not on the perpetrator.
Matthew Haynes, owner of Club Q, commented on the charges saying that they “graphically illustrate how heinous and horrific this attack was on our community”. He then spoke about how he received dozens of letters with negative comments after the attack, with some suggesting that the shooter was doing “God’s work”.
“Those feelings are still not condoned by the far-right, the leaders are not unanimously standing up in this country and saying, ‘Hey, no hate, this is too much’” Haynes said. “How many more victims does there have to be?”
Five people lost their lives at the Club Q shooting: Ashley Paugh, Daniel Aston, Derrick Rump, Kelly Loving, and Raymond Green Vance. 17 more sustained injuries. One of them was U.S. Navy Petty Officer, Thomas James, who was one of the people credited with disarming the shooter and who issued a statement from his hospital bed
“I simply wanted to save the family I found…We came a long way from Stonewall.” he said. “I want to support everyone who has known the pain and loss that have been all too common these past few years…To the youth, I say be brave. Your family is out there. You are loved and valued. So when you come out of the closet, come out swinging.”
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