Anderson Lee Aldrich faces life in prison over 2022 attack that killed five at Club Q in Colorado Springs.
The suspect in a mass shooting that killed five people at an LGBTQ nightclub in the United States last year has pleaded guilty, averting the possibility of a prolonged and emotional trial.
In a plea deal with prosecutors, Anderson Lee Aldrich pleaded guilty to five charges of murder and 46 counts of attempted murder on Monday, about seven months after the deadly attack at the Club Q nightclub in Colorado Springs, Colorado in November 2022.
The 23 year old, who also pleaded no contest to two hate crimes, faces life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Adlrich, who stormed into Club Q wearing body armour and carrying several weapons, killed five people and injured nearly two dozen others before being subdued by the “heroic” actions of club patrons who wrestled him to the ground.
The attack brought attention to violence and increasingly hostile rhetoric across the US against members of the LGBTQ community, particularly trans people. Club Q was known as a safe haven for the local LGBTQ population.
It also drew comparisons to the Pulse shooting in 2016, when an attacker killed 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida.
On Monday, people in the courtroom wiped away tears as Judge Michael McHenry explained the charges and read out the names of the Club Q victims.
Those killed were previously identified as Kelly Loving, 40; Daniel Aston, 28; Derrick Rump, 38; Ashley Paugh, 34, and Raymond Green Vance, 22.
“This thing sitting in this court room is not a human, it is a monster,” Jessica Fierro, whose daughter’s boyfriend was killed, said during the hearing. “The devil awaits with open arms.”
Jeff Aston described his son, Daniel Aston, as “kind-hearted, cheerful, sensitive in spirit and a gifted poet”.
“He had a contagious smile and burning blue eyes … His mom and I will never be the same.”
Aldrich mostly looked down as the victims spoke, glancing sometimes at a screen showing photos of the victims. “I intentionally and after deliberation caused the death of each victim,” Aldrich told the judge.
According to a court filing, Aldrich identifies as nonbinary and uses they/them pronouns. However, there are no indications that Aldrich did so before the shooting, leading some to question whether Aldrich was being sincere or even taunting victims of the shooting.
The guilty plea follows a series of jailhouse phone calls from Aldrich to The Associated Press expressing remorse and the intention to face the consequences for the shooting, the news agency reported.
Colorado does not sentence people to death, but federal authorities could still prosecute Aldrich on hate crime charges, which would bring the possibility of a death sentence.
Aldrich was previously known to law enforcement, and had been arrested after allegedly threatening their grandparents and saying they would become the “next mass killer” the year before the shooting. Aldrich’s mother declined to testify and the case was dismissed.