The 23-year-old accused of carrying out a fatal shooting at an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs last year is expected to appear in court Monday to be formally charged with more than 300 counts including murder, attempted murder and hate crimes.
The appearance will be the first time in months that survivors of the shooting and the families of those killed will confront the defendant. Many of them said they expected the defendant, Anderson Lee Aldrich, to plead guilty on Monday and receive multiple life sentences in prison.
The victims and family members said plea negotiations had been underway for more than a month and that prosecutors had advised them the defendant would have to plead formally guilty. Family members and survivors requested anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the plea deal, which would not be finalized until the court proceedings.
Prosecutors and defense attorneys declined to comment.
A guilty plea could avoid a lengthy trial and finish the state’s criminal case, seven months after the November shooting.
Several victims said they were preparing to issue court statements describing the pain they and their families had endured since that November night when a shooter broke into the nightclub, a haven for LGBTQ people in Colorado Springs, and began firing into the crowd before being subdued by the patrons.
Five people were killed: Daniel Aston and Derrick Rump, who both worked at Club Q; and Kelly Loving, Raymond Green Vance and Ashley Paugh, who were clients. About 20 others were injured, many with serious injuries. Many of the injured knew each other through work or the small Colorado Springs LGBTQ community.
Monday’s hearing comes days after some victims and survivors expressed frustration over slow payments from a fund intended to help them recover.
For months, survivors and families of the victims they agreed to attend each hearing as the case progressed. Some said it was difficult to keep their anger and grief in check as they sat in the classroom, listening to the explicit details of the rampage.
Mx. Aldrich identifies as non-binary and uses they/them pronouns, but legal experts said their gender identity alone hasn’t precluded them from facing hate crime charges. Prosecutors said the defendant had a « particular contempt » for the LGBTQ community and had shared an image on a social media app of a crosshair aimed at a Pride celebration.
« Those are my friends’ lives, » said Ashtin Gamblin, who was shot nine times while working on the door of Club Q on the night of the attack. “They have been targeted. We have been targeted because we are part of the LGBTQ community. There is absolutely no doubt why he chose Club Q. »
In May some victims took the first legal step toward filing a civil suit against the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office in Colorado Springs. In a notice of their intent to file, a precursor to a lawsuit, the victims say Mx. Aldrich’s guns should have been seized under Colorado’s red flag laws after he made bomb threats against relatives in 2021 and said they would become « the next mass murderer. » An investigation ended when relatives refused to testify, law enforcement said.
Whatever the outcome of Monday’s state court hearing, the US attorney’s office in Denver could still pursue federal hate crime charges against the defendant, which could lead to a death sentence.
Federal officials have declined to comment on whether they will file charges, but some survivors said they have spoken to federal investigators in recent months.
Since Colorado no longer has the death penalty, a life sentence is the harshest punishment a defendant could receive under state law.
Defense attorneys said their client was not hate-driven and instead pointed to mental illness, saying their client was taking medication for schizophrenia, depression and anxiety. The defendant expressed remorse in a recent interview with the Associated Press and indicated they intend to take responsibility.
Some victims who have attended previous hearings said the defense statements were a maddening rationalization for the unthinkable. Matthew Haynes, the owner of Club Q, pointed out that millions of Americans have dealt with mental illness and taken drugs without committing mass murder.
Adriana Vance, whose son Raymond Green Vance was killed in the attack, said the Club Q victims had bonded and expected to be together again in court on Monday.
« We formed a family, » he said.
As Ms. Vance prepared to go to court on Monday, she said she tried to focus on her 9-year-old son and kept his life busy with trips to museums, a swimming pool and Elitch Gardens amusement park in Denver. She said she wasn’t sure how to deal with the loss, the grief, raising her own child without her older brother—any of that.
« I’ve never experienced anything like this before, » she said. « I’m trying to do the best I can. »