Metro Weekly

Club Q Shooter Sentenced to 55 More Life Sentences

Anderson Lee Aldrich plead guilty to federal hate crime charges in the 2022 Colorado shooting and was sentenced to additional prison time.

Convicted Club Q shooter Anderson Lee Aldrich – Photo: Colorado Department of Corrections

Anderson Lee Aldrich, the convicted mass murderer who carried out the 2022 shooting at Colorado’s Club Q, has pled guilty to 74 federal hate crime and weapons-related charges, earning 55 additional life sentences, plus 190 years.

Aldrich, 24, is already serving five life sentences, plus 2,208 years, after pleading guilty to five counts of first-degree murder and related criminal offenses in state court last year.

The shooting at the Colorado LGBTQ nightclub claimed the lives of five patrons and employees, with 25 more patrons being wounded during the attack, 19 by gunfire.

On Tuesday, June 18, U.S. District Judge Charlotte Sweeney accepted Aldrich’s plea deal, which allowed them to avoid the death penalty, in exchange for Aldrich admitting that the shooting was bias-motivated and targeted clubgoers because of their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.

“You went to this community’s safe place and mass-murdered people, but I hope what you learned today is this community is much stronger than you,” Sweeney said before sentencing Aldrich, noting that she felt it was appropriate to hand down the sentence during Pride Month, reports The Denver Post.

Armed with a pistol and an AR-15-style rifle, multiple rounds of ammunition, and wearing body armor, Aldrich walked into Club Q just before midnight on November 19, 2022, and began firing into the crowd.

Club patron Thomas James, a U.S. Naval petty officer, grabbed the muzzle of the rifle and began wrestling with Aldrich for it. During that struggle, James was shot by Aldrich with the pistol but continued fighting.

James was soon joined by another patron, Richard Fierro, a U.S. Army veteran, who wrested the pistol out of Aldrich’s hands and began beating them about the head with the weapon, while James attempted to push the rifle out of Aldrich’s grasp.

Drea Norman, a transgender woman, eventually came to Fierro’s assistance, stomping on Aldrich’s neck and head with her platform shoes to make sure they couldn’t break free. The three patrons managed to subdue Aldrich until police were able to arrive on scene, as reported by The Washington Post.

During his sentencing hearing on the federal hate crime charges, Sweeney offered Aldrich the chance to speak, but they declined. When she told Aldrich it was now or never, Aldrich responded that they believed there would be an opportunity to speak again, whether in or out of court.

Survivors of the shooting and family members of victims shared testimony during the sentencing hearing about the shooting’s impact on their lives and those of their loved ones.

While some victims were more forgiving, others, including family members of those killed in the shooting, said in court that they believed Aldrich should have received the death penalty.

“We can say all the words we want to defend this person, but they did that horrible act to my son and all the other people, and I don’t believe they should be allowed to live,” Jeff Aston, the father of victim Daniel Aston, told the court.

Estella Bell, the grandmother of 22-year-old victim Raymond Vance, the boyfriend of Fierro’s daughter, addressed Aldrich directly: “What I think you should do, because they won’t give you the death penalty, is to eat rat poison and then go to hell.”

Federal prosecutors said in court filings that Aldrich had routinely used anti-LGBTQ rhetoric online prior to the shooting.

They allegedly sent a “barrage of emails containing anti-gay slurs and commentary” to a former supervisor, who was gay, after being fired about a month before the attack. Prosecutors also claimed Aldrich shared a photo with a rifle sight pointed at what appears to be a Pride parade with the comment “lol.”

Prosecutors said Aldrich amassed an arsenal of weapons in the two years prior to the attack, which they pointed to as evidence of prior planning.

They also noted Aldrich had visited the club 90 minutes before the shooting, and had a hand-drawn map of the club with entrances and exits marked, along with a binder of training material entitled “How to Handle an Active Shooter.”

Past court hearings have revealed that Aldrich has previously been prescribed medications used to treat schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, anxiety, depression, and mood disorders — although it is unclear whether those past mental health issues may have contributed to his decision to carry out the shooting.

Aldrich claims to identify as nonbinary and reportedly visited Club Q at least eight different times prior to the shooting.

Both federal prosecutors and most media outlets have used “they/them” pronouns to describe Aldrich. However, state prosecutors previously claimed there is “zero evidence” that Aldrich identified as nonbinary ahead of the shooting.

Additionally, a former friend of the shooter’s told NBC News that Aldrich frequently engaged in anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and never mentioned being nonbinary or used gender-neutral pronouns before the attack. 

Some experts who study online extremism have even suggested, based on his past behavior and his online activity, that Aldrich may be “trolling” the LGBTQ community and allies in order to mock the idea of gender identity, dehumanize LGBTQ individuals, or simply sow confusion among those who might question why a member of the nonbinary community would carry out an anti-LGBTQ attack. 

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