The alleged shooter facing possible hate crime charges in the fatal shooting of five people at a Colorado Springs gay nightclub was ordered held without bail in an initial court appearance Wednesday.
The suspect could be seen slumped over in a chair with injuries visible on the suspect’s face and head in a brief video appearance from jail. The suspect appeared to need prompting by defense attorneys and offered a slurred response when asked to state their name by El Paso County Court Judge Charlotte Ankeny.
The suspect was beaten into submission by patrons during Saturday night’s shooting at Club Q and released from the hospital Tuesday. The motive in the shooting was still under investigation, but authorities said he faces possible murder and hate crime charges.
Hate crime charges would require proving that the shooter was motivated by bias, such as against the victims’ actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. The charges against the suspect are preliminary, and prosecutors have not yet filed formal charges. The suspect is represented by Joseph Archambault, a chief trial deputy with the state public defender’s office. Lawyers from the office do not comment on cases to the media.
Defense attorneys said late Tuesday that the suspect is nonbinary. The attorneys’ footnotes assert that the suspect is nonbinary and uses they/them pronouns.
Court documents laying out the suspect’s arrest were sealed at the request of prosecutors.
Local and federal authorities have declined to answer questions about why hate crime charges were being considered. District Attorney Michael Allen noted that the murder charges would carry the harshest penalty — life in prison — whereas bias crimes are eligible for probation. He also said it was important to show the community that bias motivated crimes are not tolerated.
The weekend assault took place at a nightclub known as a sanctuary for the LGBTQ community in this mostly conservative city of about 480,000 about 70 miles (110 kilometers) south of Denver.
A longtime Club Q patron who was shot said the club’s reputation made it a target. In a video statement, Ed Sanders said he thought about what he would do in a mass shooting after the 2016 massacre of 49 people at the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida.
“I think this incident underlines the fact that LGBT people need to be loved,” said Sanders, 63. “I want to be resilient. I’m a survivor. I’m not going to be taken out by some sick person.”
Authorities said the suspect used a long rifle and was halted by two club patrons including Richard Fierro, who told reporters that he took a handgun from the suspect, hit them with it and pinned them down with help from another person until police arrived.
The victims were Raymond Green Vance, 22, a Colorado Springs native who was saving money to get his own apartment; Ashley Paugh, 35, a mother who helped find homes for foster children; Daniel Aston, 28, who had worked at the club as a bartender and entertainer; Kelly Loving, 40, whose sister described her as “caring and sweet”; and Derrick Rump, 38, another club bartender known for his wit.
The suspect is identified as Anderson Lee Aldrich, 22.
Bedayn is a corps member for The Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.
Associated Press reporters Bernard Condon in New York, Jake Bleiberg in Dallas, Kathleen Ronayne in Sacramento, Matthew Brown in Billings, Montana, Stefanie Dazio in Los Angeles and news researcher Rhonda Shafner from New York contributed.