COLORADO SPRINGS — The 22-year-old accused of killing five people and wounding 17 others in a shooting last month at an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs was formally charged Tuesday with 305 counts, including multiple allegations of first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder, assault and hate crimes.
Anderson Aldrich, wearing lime-green jail garb and sitting next to a court-appointed public defender, appeared in person in El Paso County District Court where the charges in the Nov. 19 attack on Club Q were presented to El Paso County District Judge Michael McHenry.
Aldrich, hands cuffed and secured to a metal chain wrapped around the waist, was silent during the 30-minute hearing, aside from an occasional whisper to the public defender.
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The formal charges filed Tuesday include:
- 10 counts of first-degree murder, five of which are accusations of first-degree murder after deliberation and five of which are accusations of first-degree murder with extreme indifference
- More than 70 counts of attempted first-degree murder
- 48 counts of a bias-motivated crimes
- Dozens of counts of first-degree assault
Defendants can face multiple first-degree murder charges for each person they are accused of killing. That’s because there are multiple legal theories under which first-degree murder can be prosecuted in Colorado.
For example, a defendant can be charged with both murder after deliberation and murder with extreme indifference for each alleged homicide, which is how prosecutors are handling the case against Aldrich. A first-degree murder conviction in Colorado carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole. First-degree murder is the most serious charge Aldrich faces.
Police are still reviewing how many people were inside the club when the shooting began and it’s possible the number of charges could change as the investigation continues.
“This case is going to be continue to be investigated for some time I would suspect,” El Paso County District Attorney Michael Allen told McHenry. “It’s somewhat likely that we will amend charges to add, or maybe even subtract, (counts) as we identify potentially more victims in this case.”
Allen, in a news conference after Tuesday’s hearing, declined to talk about the evidence, but he said that “we obviously think we have enough” to charge Aldrich with hate crimes.
“There are plenty of things that are obvious that have been covered in the media already,” Allen said. “We’re not going to tolerate actions against community members based on their sexual identity. We have an obligation to only file charges that we think we can prove in front of the court or a jury.”
The Club Q shooting likely entails the highest number of charges filed in a single murder case in Colorado, Allen said.
“Obviously, when you file 305 counts in a case, that tells the public, this community, this state, and this nation that we are taking this case as serious as we possibly can, ” Allen said. “We are going to prosecute this case to the fullest extent of the law.”
The 48 counts of bias-motivated crimes represent those who were inside the club at the time of the shooting, Allen said, adding that the number could increase as the investigation continues. No firearm-related charges were included in the 305 filed and Allen declined to address questions regarding how the weapons used in the shooting were obtained.
McHenry on Tuesday also ordered arrest documents unsealed by the close of business on Wednesday, despite the objection of defense attorneys, who said they are worried about protecting their client’s right to a fair trial. The documents are expected to shed more light on what happened during the attack on Club Q and potentially details about any statements Aldrich made to police after being arrested.
Aldrich was taken into custody minutes after the shooting and was hospitalized for several days for injuries sustained when Club Q patrons used the butt of a gun and their feet to stop the attack.
Derrick Rump, 38; Daniel Aston, 28; Ashley Paugh, 35; Kelly Loving, 40; and Raymond Green Vance, 22, were killed in the shooting. Rump and Aston worked at Club Q.
Aldrich was jailed without bond on five counts of first-degree murder after deliberation and five counts of committing a bias-motivated, or hate, crime. The list of charges was expected to grow as prosecutors investigated the case.
During Aldrich’s first court appearance on Nov. 23, via video uplink from the El Paso County jail, the alleged shooter’s face looked bruised and battered. Aldrich slowly muttered a weak “yes” or “no” in response to a judge’s questions.
Aldrich was more alert on Tuesday, with the injuries appearing healed or less severe.
The Club Q shooting wasn’t Aldrich’s first run-in with law enforcement.
Aldrich was arrested in June 2021 on felony menacing and kidnapping charges after a woman called El Paso County authorities to report her son “was threatening to cause harm to her with a homemade bomb, multiple weapons and ammunition,” according to the county sheriff’s office.
A judge dismissed the case because the witnesses, Aldrich’s grandparents and mother, wouldn’t cooperate with the prosecution. The case was then subsequently sealed. “There is absolutely nothing there, the case was dropped, and I’m asking you either remove or update the story,” Aldrich said in a voice message left for an editor at The Colorado Springs Gazette in August, according to The Associated Press. “The entire case was dismissed.”
The Colorado Sun and other media outlets have petitioned to unseal it, which would allow authorities to discuss the case.
A court hearing is scheduled for Thursday morning when a judge is slated to hear arguments about whether the 2021 case should be unsealed, court documents show.
Aldrich is next due in court Feb. 22 for a multiday preliminary hearing where McHenry will determine whether prosecutors have gathered enough evidence to proceed to trial. It can take years for a criminal case like the one against Aldrich to be resolved.
CORRECTION: This story was updated at 8 a.m. on Friday, Dec. 9, 2022 to correct a source’s error about the outcome of the 2021 case against Anderson Aldrich. The case was dismissed by an El Paso County judge because witnesses, Aldrich’s grandparents and mother, wouldn’t cooperate with the prosecution.