The suspect accused of entering a Colorado gay nightclub clad in body armor and opening fire with an AR-15-style rifle, killing five people and wounding at least 17 others, was charged by prosecutors Tuesday with 305 criminal counts, including hate crimes and murder. Anderson Lee Aldrich, 22, sat upright in a chair during the hearing and appeared alert. In an earlier court appearance just a few days after the shooting, the defendant's head and face were covered with bruises and Aldrich had to be prompted by attorneys to respond to questions from a judge, per the AP.
Investigators said Aldrich entered Club Q, a sanctuary for the LGBTQ community in the mostly conservative city of Colorado Springs, just before midnight on Nov. 19 and began shooting during a drag queen's birthday celebration. The killing stopped after patrons wrestled the suspect to the ground, beating Aldrich into submission, they said. Aldrich had been held on hate crime charges, but prosecutors had said previously they weren’t sure if those counts would stick because they needed to assess if there was adequate evidence to show it was a bias-motivated crime.
District Attorney Michael Allen had noted that murder charges would carry the harshest penalty—likely life in prison—but also said it was important to show the community that bias-motivated crimes aren't tolerated if there was evidence to support the charge. Allen didn't detail the charges in Tuesday's hearing but said they included "many counts of bias-motivated crimes." Aldrich, who says he's nonbinary and uses they/them pronouns, per defense court filings, was arrested at the club by police. They haven't entered a plea or spoken about the events.
More than a year before the shooting, Aldrich was arrested on allegations of making a bomb threat that led to the evacuation of about 10 homes. Aldrich threatened to harm their own family with a homemade bomb, ammunition, and multiple weapons, authorities said at the time. Aldrich was booked into jail on suspicion of felony menacing and kidnapping, but that case was apparently later sealed, and it’s unclear what became of the charges. There are no public indications that the case led to a conviction. Ring doorbell video obtained by the AP shows Aldrich arriving at their mother's front door with a big black bag, telling her the police were nearby and adding, "This is where I stand. Today I die." (Read more Colorado Springs stories.)