Several survivors told The Associated Press that the suspect in the Colorado Springs gay bar shooting was set to make a plea deal to state murder and hate charges, guaranteeing at least a life term for the attack that killed five people and wounded seventeen.
In a series of phone calls from jail to the AP, the suspect in last year’s Club Q massacre expressed regret and a willingness to face the consequences of his actions at his next scheduled court hearing this month, sparking rumors of a possible legal settlement to the case.
“I have to take responsibility for what happened,” Anderson Lee Aldrich, 23, said in their first public comments about the case. No one from federal or state authorities or the defense team would comment on rumors of a probable plea bargain.
However, according to the Associated Press, state prosecutors have already informed the families of those killed and injured in the attack that Aldrich will plead guilty to charges that carry a maximum state sentence of life in prison.
Prosecutors have lately requested survivors to write victim impact statements and emotionally prepare for the likely broadcast of the Club Q security video of the incident in anticipation of the hearing on June 26.
Wyatt Kent, who was celebrating his 23rd birthday at Club Q with friends when Aldrich opened fire, killing Kent’s partner Daniel Aston, who was tending bar. “Someone’s gone that can never be brought back through the justice system,” Kent said.
As one person put it, “We are all still missing a lot, a partner, a son, a daughter, a best friend.” Step-grandfather Jonathan Pullen, who will be livestreaming the forthcoming court, stated that the suspect, Aldrich, “has to realize what happened on that terrible night. It’s truly beginning to dawn on him.”
More than 300 state charges, including murder and hate crimes, have been filed against Aldrich. An anonymous senior law enforcement official told the Associated Press that federal hate crime charges are being considered by the U.S. Justice Department in this instance.
It’s not clear if the FBI’s probe will be wrapped up once the state prosecution is finished. Some survivors who criticized the suspect’s recorded comments to the AP pointed out that he avoided discussing a motive, blamed much of the crime on drugs, and described the events of the crime in passive, generalities like “I just can’t believe what happened” and “I wish I could turn back time.”
They claimed that the evidence, including maps, plans, and online rants, proved that the attacker had planned this attack for months. Michael Anderson, who was working as a bartender at Club Q at the time of the incident and had to duck as numerous customers were shot around him, said, “No one has sympathy for him.”
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To quote one survivor: “This community has to live with what happened, with collective trauma, with PTSD, trying to grieve the loss of our friends, to move past emotional wounds, and to move beyond what we heard, saw, and smelled.“
Just before midnight on November 19, a man armed with an AR-15-style semiautomatic rifle stormed into Club Q, a safe haven for the LGBTQ community in an otherwise conservative city of 480,000. Screams and confusion replaced initial disbelief as the music continued.
People ran for shelter across the bloody dance floor. Comrades bandaged one other and urgently sought to shield each other from harm. A Navy petty officer burned his fingers on the hot barrel of the suspect’s gun before the shooting ceased.
After one high-capacity magazine was depleted, a veteran of the United States Army joined in to help detain and beat Aldrich until police came. At least six times in the years leading up to the attack, Aldrich allegedly frequented Club Q, despite identifying as nonbinary and using they and them after their arrest.
Suspect in mass shooting at Colorado gay nightclub is expected to take a plea deal https://t.co/DH5mbM4SxR
— KCCI News (@KCCINews) June 15, 2023
According to Assistant District Attorney Michael Allen, Aldrich’s mother pushed him to attend the club against his will. Allen has also claimed that the suspect ran a website where a “neo-Nazi white supremacist” shooting instruction video was hosted.
Gamers who knew Aldrich say he used obscenities against Blacks and gays and hated the police and minorities. A police detective also testified that Aldrich had threatened to shoot at a homos*xual pride parade using a photo of a rifle scope trained on a crowd.
In prior hearings, Aldrich’s defense attorneys did not dispute his involvement in the shooting but argued that the suspect was under the influence of cocaine and other drugs the night of the incident, casting doubt on the hate motive claim.
“I don’t know if this is common knowledge but I was on a very large plethora of drugs,” Aldrich told the AP. “I had been up for days. I was abusing steroids. … I’ve finally been able to get off that crap I was on.”
When questioned whether the attack was motivated by hate, Aldrich avoided giving a clear answer, instead adding that such a notion was “completely off base.” Someone who used to be close to Aldrich found their comments hypocritical.
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Xavier Kraus, who shared a Colorado Springs apartment building with Aldrich, said, “I’m really glad he’s trying to take accountability but it’s like the ‘why’ is being shoved under the rug,” Despite video evidence of Aldrich’s actions, the prosecution against him was dismissed and sealed.
The Associated Press sent Aldrich a handwritten letter a few months ago asking to discuss a kidnapping arrest in 2021 following a confrontation with a SWAT team. Months before the shooting at Club Q, this individual made statements about becoming “the next mass killer” and gathered weapons, ammunition, protective gear, and a homemade bomb.
Authorities discovered a tub containing more than 100 pounds of explosive chemicals, prompting the evacuation of 10 surrounding homes and a webcast of the incident on Facebook. The alleged gunman, who was living with their grandparents at the time, reportedly became unhappy when he and his wife announced their intention to move to Florida and made death threats against them.
“You guys die today and I’m taking you with me,” the suspect was reported to have said. That’s right, “I’m loaded and ready.” Even though Aldrich’s family warned the judge in writing that he was “certain” to commit murder if freed, the charges were dropped.
District Attorney Allen, who took a lot of heat for the case’s dismissal, said that Aldrich’s relatives had refused to help and had frequently ignored subpoenas because they lived out of state. In March, after receiving the AP’s letter, Aldrich called a reporter and requested payment for an interview.
They contacted us again toward the end of last month, just after prosecutors stated in a court filing that victims shared a “near-unanimous sentiment” for “the most expeditious determination of case-related issues.”
The suspect made six calls, each of which was 15 minutes long due to the automated nature of the jail phone system. The injured will have to learn to live with permanent damage.
When asked what caused the incident, they responded, “I don’t know. That’s why it blows my mind that it actually occurred… It’s a foregone conclusion that I will spend the rest of my life behind bars, or face the death penalty, at the federal level”.
Though the AP typically would not give a suspect a voice after they’ve been accused of a serious crime, the editors decided that the suspect’s expressed intention to accept responsibility and expression of regret were noteworthy and warranted coverage.
Anderson, a former bartender at Club Q, has been quoted as saying that survivors have expressed a desire for a swift resolution to the criminal case.
“My fear is that if this takes years, that prevents the processing and moving on and finding peace beyond this case,” he said. “I would love this wrapped up as quickly as possible under the guarantee that justice is served.”
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