Colorado bar shooting suspect faces murder and hate crime charges

In the western United States, two days after the attack that killed five people and injured many others, the man suspected of opening fire at a Colorado Springs LGBTIQ+ club has been arrested on murder and hate crime charges.

Online court records showed 22-year-old Anderson Lee Aldrich was facing five counts of murder and five counts of hate crime causing bodily harm in the Saturday night November 19 attack at Club Q.

Lee Aldrich was arrested Sunday after the shooting at this gay, lesbian and transgender nightspot in Colorado’s second-largest city. He remained hospitalized with unspecified injuries, police said.

The charges were preliminary and had not been brought before the court by prosecutors. Hate crime charges would require showing that the gunman was motivated by bias, such as against the sexual orientation or gender identity of the victims.

The attack was stopped when a customer grabbed a gun from Lee Aldrich, hit him with it and pinned him down until police arrived minutes later.

Court documents outlining what led to Lee Aldrich’s arrest have been sealed at the request of prosecutors, who said releasing the details could jeopardize the investigation. No information is available on Lee Aldrich’s attorney.

A suspect known to law enforcement

Of the 18 injured at Club Q, some were wounded trying to flee, and it was unclear how many were shot, a police spokesman said. On their Twitter account, the Colorado Springs Police detailed the types of injuries, and the identities of the fatalities.

Questions quickly arose about why authorities did not attempt to take Lee Aldrich’s weapons in 2021, when he was detained after his mother reported that he had threatened her with a pipe bomb and other weapons.

Although authorities said at the time that no explosives were found, gun control advocates have questioned why police did not use Colorado’s “red flag” laws to seize the guns his mother says she had. There is no record that prosecutors have filed kidnapping charges and threats against Aldrich.

Mayor John Suthers said on NBC’s Today show that the district attorney would file court papers Monday to allow law enforcement to speak more about Aldrich’s criminal record.

Suthers told the AP news agency that there were “reasons to hope” that all the hospitalized victims would recover.

America’s 6th November Mass Murder

The shooting revived memories of the 2016 massacre at the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, which killed 49 people. Colorado has seen several mass murders, including at Columbine High School in 1999, at a suburban Denver movie theater in 2012 and at a Boulder supermarket last year.

Multiple firearms were found at the scene of the brief attack, according to police, who said Aldrich used a “long rifle” to shoot his victims. It was the sixth mass murder this month and came in a year that saw the nation rocked by the deaths of 21 people in a shooting at a school in Uvalde, Texas.

The violence this weekend broke through the cozy confines of an entertainment venue long prized as a safe haven for the LGBTIQ+ community in the conservative-leaning city.

Pete Aldinger places flowers at a monument outside Club Q on Monday, November 21, 2022, in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Aldinger traveled from Denver with a friend to pay his respects. © AP/Parker Seibold

The makeshift memorial that sprang up in the hours after the attack continued to grow on Monday, with a steady stream of people bringing flowers, Pride flags and leaving messages of support for the LGBTIQ+ community. The scene of the shooting remained cordoned off.

“It’s a reminder that love and acceptance still have a long way to go,” Colorado Springs resident Mary Nikkel said at the scene. “This growing monument to the people is saying that it matters what happened to them… We’re not going to let it go.”

“Heroic” Clients

The club was one of two nightspots for the LGBTIQ+ community in Colorado Springs, residents said. Authorities were called at 11:57 p.m. Saturday with multiple reports of a shooting and the first officer arrived at midnight.

Joshua Thurman said he was at the club with about two dozen people and was dancing when the shots started. He at first thought he was part of the music, until he heard another shot and said he saw the muzzle flash of a gun.

Thurman, 34, said she ran into a dressing room where she hid with several other people. They locked the door, turned off the lights, and lay on the ground as they listened to the violence unfold, including the subdued gunman.

“I could have lost my life – why?” she said, tears running down her cheeks. “We weren’t hurting anyone. We were in our space, in our community, in our house, enjoying ourselves like everyone else.”

Detectives were looking to see if anyone had helped the suspect before the attack. Police Chief Adrian Vasquez said customers who intervened during the attack were “heroic” and prevented more deaths.

Floral tributes are laid in memory of the victims after a mass shooting at the Club Q gay nightclub in Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA, November 20, 2022.

Floral tributes are laid in memory of the victims after a mass shooting at the Club Q gay nightclub in Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA, November 20, 2022. © REUTERS/Kevin Mohatt

Drag-queen events, before the conservative gaze

Club Q also hosts a drag-queen show on Saturdays, according to its website. Club Q’s Facebook page said planned entertainment included a “punk and alternative show” preceding a birthday dance party, with a Sunday drag brunch for all ages.

Drag events have recently become the focus of anti-LGBTIQ+ rhetoric and protests, as their detractors, including politicians, have proposed banning access to children, falsely claiming they are used to “groom” performers. kids.

President Joe Biden said that “places that are supposed to be safe spaces of acceptance and celebration should never become places of terror and violence.”

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, who became the first openly gay man to be elected governor of the United States in 2018, called the shooting “sick.” “My heart breaks for the family and friends of the lost, injured and traumatized,” Polis said.

The shooting occurred during Transgender Awareness Week and just at the start of Transgender Remembrance Day on Sunday, when events are held around the world to mourn and remember transgender people lost to violence.

Colorado Springs, a city of about 480,000 located 70 miles (110 kilometers) south of Denver, is home to the US Air Force Academy and the US Olympic Training Center, as well like Focus on the Family, a prominent evangelical Christian ministry that lobbies against the rights of the LGBTIQ+ community. The group condemned the shooting, saying it “exposes the evil and wickedness within the human heart.”

In 2015, three people were killed and eight injured at a Planned Parenthood clinic in the city when a gunman targeted the clinic because it was performing abortions.

Since 2006, there have been 523 mass murders and 2,727 deaths as of November 19, according to The Associated Press/USA Today database on mass murders in the United States.

With AP and Reuters

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