The man suspected of opening fire at a Colorado Springs LGBTQ nightclub was detained Monday on murder and hate crime charges, two days after the attack that killed five people and left 17 others with gunshot wounds.
Online records showed that 22-year-old Anderson Lee Aldrich faced five counts of murder and five counts of committing a bias-motivated felony involving bodily harm in the attack on Club Q on Saturday night. He remained in hospital, but police declined to provide details of his injuries.
The charges were preliminary and prosecutors had not filed them in court. Michael Allen, district attorney for Colorado’s 4th Judicial District, told reporters Monday night that the suspect will likely face further charges, which may differ from those listed in the arrest documents.
Allen said the suspect will likely make his first video appearance in the coming days, depending on his condition. Formal charges would be filed after that performance, Allen said.
Hate crime allegations would require proof that the shooter was motivated by the actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity of the victims.
Cole Finegan, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Colorado, told reporters it was too early to say whether federal charges of hate crimes could be filed.
A law enforcement official said the suspect used an AR-15-style semi-automatic weapon in Saturday night’s attack on Club Q, but a handgun and extra ammunition magazines were also recovered.
18 injured, 13 still in hospital
Officials clarified Monday that 18 people were injured in the attack, not 25 as they originally said. Among them was one person whose injury was not a gunshot wound. Police had previously said some survivors were injured as they tried to flee.
Thirteen people remained in hospital on Monday, officials said. At least five people had been treated and released. Mayor John Suthers said there was “reason to hope” that all hospitalized victims would recover.
On Monday, Police Chief Adrian Vasquez identified the dead as Kelly Loving, Daniel Aston, Derek Rump, Ashley Paugh and Raymond Green Vance.
Aston, 28, was a transgender bartender at the club who also performed on shows as a dancer, according to a Colorado Public Radio interview with his mother, Sabrina Aston.
“He was the happiest he’d ever been,” she said. “He was thriving and having fun and having friends. It’s just incredible. He had so much more life to give to us and all his friends and himself.”
‘Heroic’ patrons stopped gunman
The attack was halted when two patrons managed to subdue the gunman, officials said. One of them grabbed the gunman’s gun, hit him with it, and pinned him down until police arrived minutes later.
The two patrons were identified as Richard Fierro and Thomas James on Monday.
Suthers said he had a chance to talk to Fierro on Monday.
“I’ve never met anyone who had done such heroic actions who was so humble about it. He just said to me, ‘I was trying to protect my family,'” Suthers told the press conference.
Fierro’s wife, Jess, told Reuters on Monday that her daughter’s boyfriend was killed in the shooting.
She said her husband injured his hands, knees and ankle as he grabbed a gun from the gunman and hit him with it
to subdue him. She said the scene was “absolute devastation” and “terrifying”.
Suspect’s past threats investigated
Questions were already being raised about why authorities didn’t try to take Aldrich’s guns from him in 2021, when he was arrested after his mother reported threatening her with a homemade bomb and other weapons.
Sheriff’s deputies evacuated about 10 nearby homes until Aldrich finally surrendered. They found no explosives, but Aldrich was incarcerated at the county jail on two counts of “threatening felony” and three counts of “premeditated kidnapping,” the press release said.
Gun control advocates are asking why police haven’t tried to enact Colorado’s “red flag” law, allowing authorities to confiscate the guns his mother said he had. There are also no prosecutors who have ever taken action on the felony kidnapping and threatening charges against Aldrich.
On Monday night, Allen, the district attorney, told reporters he was unable to comment on Aldrich’s past because of “highly restrictive” Colorado laws under which court documents were automatically sealed when a lawsuit was dismissed.
Asked if the suspect had made threats about Club Q prior to the shooting, Colorado Springs police lieutenant Pamela Castro said that would be part of the investigation.
Increase in attacks, threats
Fear within many LGBTQ communities in the United States has increased amid a divided political climate and following a series of threats and violence against LGBTQ people and events in recent months.
The shooting occurred during Transgender Awareness Week and just at the start of Transgender Day of Remembrance on Sunday, when events are held around the world to mourn and remember transgender people lost to violence.
The shooting brought back memories of the 2016 massacre at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, which left 49 people dead. Colorado has experienced several mass murders, including at Columbine High School in 1999, a movie theater in suburban Denver in 2012, and last year at a Boulder grocery store.
It was the sixth mass murder in the US this month and came in a year when the nation was rocked by the death of 21 in a school shooting in Uvalde, Texas.
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