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Club Q mass shooter sentenced to life in prison on federal hate crime charges

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(COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo.) — The shooter who killed five and injured over a dozen more at an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs, Colorado, in 2022 accepted a plea deal Tuesday in connection with federal hate crimes charges and was given 55 concurrent life sentences.

Anderson Lee Aldrich pleaded guilty to each of the 74 charges of violating provisions of the Matthew Shepard And James Byrd, Jr., Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009 as well as gun crimes in the Club Q shooting. Aldrich initially pleaded not guilty.

United States District Judge Charlotte N. Sweeney accepted the plea agreement, sentencing Aldrich to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole, to be followed by a 190-year sentence of imprisonment.

Prosecutors said earlier this year they would not seek the death penalty.

“You went to this community’s safe space and mass murdered people,” said Sweeney, adding that it was appropriate to sentence him to life during Pride month which honors the LGBTQ community. “This community is much stronger than you, stronger than your armor and stronger than your weapons and sure as hell stronger than your hatred.”

Daniel Davis Aston, Kelly Loving, Derrick Rump, Ashley Paugh and Raymond Green Vance were killed in the attack.

Several victims and their families spoke at the sentencing hearing, some who said they wanted the death penalty in his case, while others took the opportunity to tell Aldrich about the pain they’ve felt in the aftermath of the shooting.

“You do not deserve to be sitting here when you took the lives of five people,” said a relative of Paugh. “I want you to feel the pain every day that you’ve caused all of us.”

“All I have left of him now is an urn that I speak to every day at night,” said Adriana Vance, the mother of Raymond Green Vance.

Aston’s parents Jeff and Sabrina spoke about their son Daniel, who was transgender, and denounced the anti-LGBTQ hate he and others have faced.

“He was probably the happiest I’ve ever seen him in the last few years” before the shooting, said Jeff Aston at the sentencing hearing. “He certainly didn’t deserve to go this way.”

As part of the guilty plea, Aldrich admitted to carrying out a bias-motivated attack when he killed five people, injured 19 individuals through gunfire and victimized about 26 other individuals who were targeted “for actual or perceived gender identity or sexual orientation,” in a premeditated attack, Sweeney said at the Tuesday hearing.

The sentencing recommendation details Aldrich’s alleged past use of online platforms “to express anti-gay and anti-transgender views,” use of anti-gay slurs and harassment of a gay co-worker in the years preceding the attack.

In addition to the federal charges, Aldrich was already sentenced to over 2,000 years in state prison in June 2023 after pleading guilty to five counts of murder in the first degree and 46 counts of attempted murder in the first degree. Aldrich pleaded no contest to two bias-motivated crimes.

Aldrich opened fire in Club Q with an AR-15 style rifle and was wearing a tactical vest with ballistic plates and had “at least two additional magazines loaded with ammunition,” on the night of Nov. 19, 2022. The club had just hosted a drag show that night as one of several events to honor Transgender Day of Remembrance on Nov. 20, according to court documents.

Aldrich was only stopped after two patrons forcibly removed their gun.

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