By Keith Coffman
DENVER (Reuters) – The suspect in the fatal shooting of five people in a Colorado LGBTQ nightclub last month is set to be formally charged on Tuesday, potentially facing dozens of counts including murder, attempted murder, assault and hate crimes.
Anderson Lee Aldrich, 22, has been held without bond at the El Paso County jail stemming from the Nov. 19 rampage at Club Q in Colorado Springs. Twenty-two people were wounded with gunshots or injured in other ways.
The defendant was initially booked on suspicion of various offenses including first-degree murder, bias-motivated crimes and ethnic intimidation, according to jail records.
Police and witnesses said Aldrich, who was clad in body armor, stormed the club armed with a rifle and handgun and opened fire indiscriminately.
Those killed were identified as Kelly Loving, 40, Daniel Aston, 28, Derrick Rump, 38, Ashley Paugh, 34, and Raymond Green Vance, 22.
Two men with military backgrounds subdued Aldrich until police arrived. A former U.S. Army major and decorated Iraq and Afghanistan war veteran, Richard Fierro, told reporters that he disarmed Aldrich and pistol-whipped him into submission.
“I wish I could have saved everybody in there,” Fierro said. “I wish I could have done more.”
In the suspect’s booking photo, Aldrich appeared battered with face and neck bruises apparently sustained when beaten by the bar’s patrons.
The other man credited with subduing Aldrich, U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Thomas James, said in a written statement that he just wanted “to save the family I found.”
“My thoughts are with those we lost … and those who are still recovering from their injuries,” said James, who was hospitalized with unspecified injuries and has since been released.
Although authorities have not publicly identified a motive, the Colorado shooting was reminiscent of the 2016 Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando, Florid, where a gunman killed 49 people before police shot him dead.
If convicted of first-degree murder, Aldrich faces a mandatory life sentence without the possibility of parole.
Colorado no longer has a death-penalty statute but Aldrich could face a death sentence in federal court if prosecutors there decide to charge him with crimes under the federal code that still has capital punishment on its books for certain crimes.
Lawyers assigned to represent Aldrich from the Colorado public defender’s office have said in court filings that their client identifies his gender as non-binary and prefers “they” and “them” pronouns.
District Attorney Michael Allen said after Aldrich’s initial court appearance on Nov. 23 that the suspect’s gender identity would have no bearing on how the case would be prosecuted.
Aldrich was previously arrested in June 2021 in Colorado Springs after his mother reported he threatened to detonate a bomb and harm her with multiple weapons, according to a news release from the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office.
(Reporting by Keith Coffman in Denver; Editing by Steve Gorman, Robert Birsel)