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The shooter who killed 5 at a Colorado LGBTQ+ club pleads guilty to 50 federal hate crimes

DENVER (AP) – The shooter who killed five people and injured 19 others at a Colorado Springs nightclub, pleaded guilty Tuesday to 50 federal hate crime charges.

Anderson Lee Aldrich, 24, is already serving a life sentence after To plead guilty to lay out the charges in the 2022 shooting last year. Federal prosecutors focused on proving that the Club Q attack… a sanctuary for LGBTQ+ people in the rather conservative city – was premeditated and fueled by prejudice.

Aldrich pleaded guilty as part of a deal with prosecutors that allows the shooter to avoid the death penalty and receive multiple life sentences for the hate crimes, plus a total of 190 years of jail on firearms and other charges.

Defense attorneys in the state’s case, who said their client was non-binary and uses their pronouns, argued that Aldrich was high on cocaine and drugs at the time. In phone calls from prison with The Associated Press last year, Aldrich did not answer directly when asked whether the attack was motivated by hate, saying only that it was “completely out of character.” of remarks” and did not reveal a motivation to the AP or the state. court.

U.S. District Judge Charlotte Sweeney, Colorado’s first openly gay federal judge, said she would hear testimony from victims before deciding whether to accept the sentencing agreement.

Less than a month before the shooting, Aldrich coordinated a spam campaign against a gay former workplace supervisor, according to recent documents filed by prosecutors. They also accuse Aldrich of releasing someone else’s manifesto, which contained racist and anti-Semitic statements and falsely claimed that being transgender was a mental illness.

Aldrich spent more than $9,000 on gun purchases from at least 56 sellers between September 2020 and the attack on November 19, 2022, according to new evidence cited by prosecutors.

Investigators discovered that a hand-drawn map of Club Q with an entry and exit point marked was found inside Aldrich’s apartment, evidence that was also presented in court in State. There was also a black binder containing training materials titled “How to Deal with an Active Shooter.”

Defense attorneys in the state’s case, who said their client was non-binary and uses their pronouns, argued that Aldrich was high on cocaine and drugs at the time.

In a series of phone calls from prison with The Associated Press last year, Aldrich did not answer directly when asked whether the attack was motivated by hate, saying only that it was ” completely irrelevant.” Aldrich revealed no motivation to the AP or state court and declined to speak at this sentencing.

That Aldrich is non-binary is a claim rejected by some of the victims as well as the prosecutor who prosecuted Aldrich in state court, who called it an effort to avoid hate crime charges.

Among them is Ashtin Gamblin, who was working the front door that night and continues to receive physical therapy after being shot nine times. A true member of the LGBTQ+ community would be aware of the discrimination and mental health issues they face and would not attack its members in such a sanctuary, she said.

“To come to a safe place and do that, you’re not part of the community. You just wanted the community to disappear,” Gamblin said. She is among the survivors expected to speak at the hearing about how the attack still affects their lives.

Aldrich visited the club at least eight times before the attack, including an hour and a half before the shooting, according to prosecutors. Just before midnight, Aldrich returned wearing a tactical vest with ballistic plates and an AR-15 style rifle and immediately began shooting. Aldrich killed the first person in the lobby, shot the bartenders and patrons of the bar, then headed toward the dance floor, stopping to reload the rifle’s magazine.

The shooting was stopped by a Navy officer who grabbed the barrel of the suspect’s rifle, burning his hand, and by an Army veteran who helped restrain Aldrich until police arrived. authorities said.

There was a chance to prevent such violence: Aldrich was arrested in June 2021, accused of threatening his grandparents and by promising to become “the next mass killer” ″ while stockpiling weapons, body armor and bomb-making materials. But Aldrich’s mother and grandparents refused to cooperateand prosecutors failed to serve subpoenas on family members who could have kept the case alive, so the charges were eventually dropped.

A felony conviction in the case would have prevented Aldrich from legally purchasing more guns. But District Attorney Michael Allen pointed out that most of the gun components used in the shooting were untraceable ghost gun parts that did not require Aldrich to pass a background check to acquire them. Two guns seized from Aldrich in the 2021 case were still in the custody of the sheriff’s office at the time of the Club Q shooting, he said.

Justifying the proposed sentence, prosecutors wrote: “The horrors that victims and survivors experienced at the hands of the defendant cannot be overstated. The victims and survivors, who were celebrating Transgender Day of Remembrance, were attacked when they least suspected it by someone who had stood in their presence just hours before.

Aldrich, who will be returned to state prison after the hearing, is being sentenced federally under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which expanded federal law in 2009 to include crimes motivated by sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.

Gamblin wanted the death penalty to be a recognition of the number of lives harmed. She said some friends no longer want to go to events and others struggle to hold down jobs that involve working with the public.

“We don’t want anything to go back to normal, but we know that’s not going to happen,” she said.

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News Source : apnews.com

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