Plea Deal Expected for Suspect in Colorado Gay Nightclub Mass Shooting

by Lucas Garcia
plea deal

Survivors of the mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Colorado Springs anticipate that the suspect will reach a plea deal for state murder and hate charges. This deal would result in a minimum life sentence for the attack that claimed the lives of five people and injured 17 others, according to several survivors who spoke to The Big Big News.

The news of a potential legal resolution to the Club Q massacre comes after the suspect made remorseful statements and expressed a willingness to face the consequences during jailhouse phone calls to the AP. Anderson Lee Aldrich, the 23-year-old suspect, spoke publicly about the case for the first time, stating, “I have to take responsibility for what happened.”

While federal and state authorities, as well as defense attorneys, have declined to comment on the possible plea deal, Colorado law mandates that victims be notified about such agreements. Several individuals who lost loved ones or were wounded in the attack have confirmed that state prosecutors have informed them in advance that Aldrich plans to plead guilty to charges that carry a maximum state sentence of life imprisonment.

Recently, prosecutors asked the survivors to prepare victim-impact statements for the upcoming hearing on June 26 and mentally brace themselves for the potential release of surveillance footage from Club Q showing the attack.

Wyatt Kent, who was celebrating his 23rd birthday at Club Q when the shooting occurred, expressed the pain caused by the loss of his partner, Daniel Aston, who worked behind the bar. Kent said, “Someone’s gone that can never be brought back through the justice system… We are all still missing a lot, a partner, a son, a daughter, a best friend.”

Jonathan Pullen, the suspect’s step-grandfather, plans to watch the hearing on a livestream and stated that Aldrich is beginning to comprehend the gravity of what transpired on that fateful night.

Aldrich faces over 300 state charges, including murder and hate crimes. The U.S. Justice Department is also considering filing federal hate crime charges, as reported by a senior law enforcement official who spoke anonymously to the AP. It remains unclear whether the anticipated resolution of the state prosecution will affect the ongoing FBI investigation.

Some survivors who listened to the suspect’s recorded comments criticized them as a calculated attempt to avoid the federal death penalty. They noted that Aldrich failed to discuss a motive and placed much of the blame on drugs, using passive language such as “I just can’t believe what happened” and “I wish I could turn back time.” Survivors argue that this contradicts the evidence of planning and premeditation demonstrated through maps, diagrams, online rants, and other materials.

Michael Anderson, who was bartending at Club Q when the shooting erupted, stated, “No one has sympathy for him… 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 move past what we heard, saw, and smelled.”

The tragedy unfolded shortly before midnight on November 19 when the suspect entered Club Q, a longtime safe haven for the LGBTQ community in the mostly conservative city of Colorado Springs, and indiscriminately fired an AR-15-style semiautomatic rifle. The scene was filled with disbelief, screams, and confusion while the music continued to play. Partygoers sought cover by diving across a bloodstained dance floor, with friends desperately trying to protect one another and using napkins to stem the bleeding.

The shooting only ceased after a Navy petty officer grabbed the suspect’s rifle barrel, burning his hand due to its extreme heat. An Army veteran joined in the effort to subdue and apprehend Aldrich, who had emptied one high-capacity magazine and possessed several more.

The suspect, who now identifies as nonbinary and uses the pronouns they/them, allegedly visited Club Q at least six times in the years leading up to the attack. District Attorney Michael Allen revealed that Aldrich’s mother had compelled them to go to the club “against his will and sort of forced that culture on him.”

Evidence presented in court includes Aldrich’s involvement in administering a website that posted a “neo-Nazi white supremacist” shooting training video. Online gaming friends recalled Aldrich expressing hatred towards the police, LGBTQ individuals, and minorities, using derogatory language against Black and gay people. Additionally, a police detective testified that Aldrich had sent an online message with a photo of a rifle scope targeting a gay pride parade.

Defense attorneys have not disputed Aldrich’s role in the shooting during previous hearings but have countered the allegation of a hate-motivated crime. They argue that the suspect was heavily intoxicated from cocaine and medication on the night of the attack.

Aldrich did not directly answer whether the attack was motivated by hate, stating only that such an assumption was “completely off base.”

Even a former friend of Aldrich found their statements disingenuous. Xavier Kraus, who lived across the hall from Aldrich in a Colorado Springs apartment complex, said, “I’m really glad he’s trying to take accountability, but it’s like the ‘why’ is being shoved under the rug.”

The AP had sent Aldrich a handwritten letter months ago, requesting an interview regarding a 2021 kidnapping arrest that occurred before the Club Q shooting. The arrest involved a standoff with a SWAT team, although the prosecution had been dismissed and sealed despite video evidence of Aldrich’s crimes. In that case, Aldrich had threatened to become “the next mass killer” and had stockpiled guns, ammunition, body armor, and a homemade bomb. The incident was livestreamed on Facebook and resulted in the evacuation of nearby homes due to the discovery of over 100 pounds of explosive materials.

Charges were dismissed, even after Aldrich’s relatives wrote to a judge, warning that the suspect was “certain” to commit murder if released. District Attorney Allen, facing heavy criticism, later attributed the dismissal to Aldrich’s family members refusing to cooperate and evading out-of-state subpoenas.

In response to the AP’s letter, Aldrich initially requested payment for an interview during a phone call with a reporter in March. This request was declined. Aldrich called again last month, shortly after prosecutors wrote in a court filing that the victims overwhelmingly desired “the most expedient determination of case-related issues.”

During a series of six calls, each limited to 15 minutes due to the automated jail phone system, the suspect mentioned, “Nothing’s ever going to bring back their loved ones. People are going to have to live with injury that can’t be repaired.”

When asked about the motive, Aldrich responded, “I don’t know. That’s why I think it’s so hard to comprehend that it did happen… I’m either going to get the death penalty federally or I will go to prison for life, that’s a given.”

Although the AP typically refrains from providing a platform to individuals accused of such crimes, the editors considered the suspect’s stated intention to accept responsibility and express remorse as newsworthy and worthy of reporting.

Former Club Q bartender Anderson, among other survivors, expressed their desire for a swift resolution to the criminal case. Anderson explained, “My fear is that if this takes years, that prevents the processing and moving on and finding peace beyond this case… I would love this wrapped up as quickly as possible under the guarantee that justice is served.”

AP Writer Colleen Slevin in Denver contributed to this report. Contact AP’s global investigative team at [email protected].

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about plea deal

What is the latest update on the mass shooting at the Colorado gay nightclub?

The latest update is that the suspect is expected to take a plea deal for state murder and hate charges, ensuring at least a life sentence for the attack. Survivors have been informed about the potential plea deal, and preparations are being made for the upcoming court hearing.

What charges does the suspect face?

The suspect faces over 300 state counts, including murder and hate crimes. The U.S. Justice Department is also considering filing federal hate crime charges in connection with the shooting.

Is the suspect showing remorse for the attack?

According to recorded phone calls from jail, the suspect has expressed remorse and a willingness to take responsibility for the attack. However, some survivors have criticized the suspect’s statements as an attempt to avoid the federal death penalty.

Will the plea deal resolve the ongoing FBI investigation?

It is unclear whether the anticipated resolution of the state prosecution will also resolve the ongoing FBI investigation. The plea deal is specifically related to state charges, and federal authorities are separately considering their own charges.

How are the survivors and victims’ families reacting to the potential plea deal?

Some survivors and victims’ families are supportive of a quick resolution to the criminal case, hoping it will aid in their healing process. However, others feel that justice should be served and are critical of the suspect’s attempts to downplay the motive behind the attack.

When did the mass shooting at the Colorado gay nightclub occur?

The mass shooting took place on November 19, approximately one year before the expected court hearing related to the plea deal.

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MichaelSmith June 15, 2023 - 1:33 pm

survivors and victims’ families deserve our support and sympathy. they’ve been through so much and need healing.

jenny83 June 15, 2023 - 5:23 pm

it’s hard to comprehend why someone would commit such a terrible act. the motive needs to be explored thoroughly.

JohnDoe55 June 15, 2023 - 5:53 pm

plea deals rly? this person killed innocent ppl and they just wanna negotiate? justice should b harsher!

Liz678 June 15, 2023 - 9:14 pm

i can’t even imagine what the survivors and families r going thru. they deserve closure and justice ASAP!

jessie22 June 16, 2023 - 1:55 am

omg this is such a sad story. i hope the suspect gets what they deserve! life sentence is too good for them!!!

sk8rboi June 16, 2023 - 6:11 am

the bravery of those who subdued the shooter is amazing. true heroes in the face of such tragedy.

alexander_88 June 16, 2023 - 10:52 am

plea deal or not, nothing can bring back those who were lost. let’s hope justice is served and lessons are learned from this tragedy.


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