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Club Q shooter sentenced to life in prison plus 190 years after pleading guilty to federal hate crime and gun charges

Anderson Lee Aldrich, center, sits during a court appearance in Colorado Springs in November 2022. (El Paso County District Court) Anderson Lee Aldrich, center, sits during a court appearance in Colorado Springs in November 2022. (El Paso County District Court)
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The shooter who opened fire in a Colorado LGBTQ2S+ nightclub in 2022, killing five people and injuring 19, was sentenced in federal court Tuesday to life in prison without the possibility of parole plus 190 years.

Anderson Lee Aldrich’s sentence came after he pleaded guilty to 74 federal hate crime charges and gun charges in connection with the shooting. Prosecutors chose not to pursue the death penalty in the case, and the US Department of Justice announced in January it had reached a plea agreement with Aldrich.

Aldrich, 24, is already serving five consecutive life terms and an additional 2,212 years without the possibility of parole at the Wyoming State Penitentiary after pleading guilty in 2023 to state charges for the attack, which targeted one of the few LGBTQ2S+ spaces in Colorado Springs, fostering a safe and inclusive atmosphere in a conservative community.

“I loved that place,” Ashtin Gamblin, who was shot nine times and survived, said during her victim impact statement prior to sentencing. While she is not a member of the LGBTQ2S+ community, Gamblin said, she is an ally

“I loved everybody there,” she said, crediting Club Q’s bar supervisor, Daniel Aston, with saving her life before he was killed.

Aside from Aston, Derrick Rump, another Club Q employee, was also killed, as well as Ashley Paugh, Kelly Loving and Raymond Green Vance.

An exterior view of Club Q is seen in February 2023, in Colorado Springs, Colorado. (David Zalubowski / The Associated Press)

In a sentencing statement submitted to the court prior to Tuesday’s hearing, the Justice Department called the shooting a “brazen and calculated” attack on the club’s employees and patrons, describing it as a “bias-motivated, premeditated, mass-casualty attack.”

Aldrich began the massacre at the club as patrons were gathering for Transgender Day of Remembrance, for which Club Q had scheduled a weekend of events, including a drag show.

The shooter spent more than $9,000 buying weapons and visited the club several times before, becoming familiar with the layout, according to the sentencing document. Aldrich had expressed an open hatred for the LGBTQ2S+ community and had indicated an interest in mass shootings before, the document said.

Then, in the late hours of November 19, 2022, the then-22-year-old entered the club carrying an AR-15 style assault rifle and began “firing at everyone in sight,” according to the sentencing document. Some patrons hid or played dead as Aldrich moved though the club, shooting indiscriminately.

The violence came to an end when an army veteran took down the shooter, aided by a Navy petty officer and a drag performer at the club.

The shooting provided an echo of the devastating 2016 shooting at Pulse, an LGBTQ2S+ nightclub in Orlando, Florida, which left 49 people dead.

Several victims who were shot but survived have required surgery for their injuries and continue to face medical challenges, including loss of mobility and post-traumatic stress disorder.

For Colorado Springs’ queer community, the mass shooting was traumatic. The club served as a crucial safe haven for people from a variety of backgrounds living in a conservative stronghold. One trans man who worked as a drag king at Club Q told CNN after the shooting, “Our safety as queer people in Colorado Springs is now questioned. I’m scared to be myself as a trans man in this community.”

Aldrich has faced heavy sentencing for the brutal attack: The 2023 sentence was the second-longest ever given in Colorado, behind only the 2012 Aurora theater mass shooting, according to the district attorney.

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