The man accused of killing five people and injuring more than a dozen others at a gay bar in the US state of Colorado are charged with murder and hate crimes, several media outlets have reported, citing court documents.
Online court records showed Anderson Lee Aldrich, 22, facing five counts of murder and five counts of committing a bias-motivated felony involving bodily harm in connection with the attack at Club Q in Colorado Springs, The Associated Press reported. Monday.
The charges were preliminary and prosecutors had not filed them with the court, the news agency said.
The Denver mail also reported that records showed that Aldrich had been arrested on suspicion of murder and hate crimes, but that official charges may eventually change.
Aldrich, who was overpowered by patrons Saturday night after opening fire at the club, is currently hospitalized awaiting formal charges, Colorado Springs Police Chief Adrian Vasquez said.
Colorado Springs police said Monday afternoon that five people were killed in the attack, which sent shockwaves across the United States. Seventeen others suffered gunshot wounds, while another person was wounded but not by gunfire.
• 5 deceased community members.
• 17 community members injured by gunshot wounds.
• 1 member of the community injured, but not from a gunshot wound.
• 1 member of the community who was a victim with no visible injuries.
— The Colorado Springs Police Department (@CSPDPIO) November 21, 2022
District Attorney Michael Allen said earlier in the day that he expected first-degree murder charges to be brought and “if the evidence supports bias-motivated crimes, we will charge that as well.”
“Obviously there is some evidence,” Allen told CNN. “The location is some proof.
“The fact that these victims were in a specific location that is mostly frequented by members of the LGBTQ community is evidence we can use,” he said.
The hate crime allegations require proof that the shooter was motivated by bias, for example against the actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity of the victims.
A law enforcement official, who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media, said the suspect used an AR-15-style semi-automatic weapon, but a handgun and extra ammunition magazines were also recovered.
The shooting — which, according to Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers, had “all the appearances of a hate crime” — recalled the 2016 Pulse club massacre when a gunman killed 49 people at the Orlando, Florida gay nightclub before being fatally shot by police.
Colorado has experienced several mass murders, including at Columbine High School in 1999, a movie theater in suburban Denver in 2012, and at a Boulder supermarket last year.
The attack on Saturday also came as the US saw increasing calls for stricter gun regulations in the aftermath of the attack an attack at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, killing 21 children and teachers in May.
Questions have already been raised as to why authorities didn’t try to take Aldrich’s guns away when he was arrested in 2021 after his mother reported that he had threatened her with a homemade bomb and other weapons.
While authorities said no explosives were found at the time, gun control advocates wonder why police did not try to enact Colorado’s “red flag” law, which would have allowed authorities to confiscate the guns. take what his mother says he had.
There are also no prosecutors who have ever taken action on felony kidnapping and threatening charges against Aldrich.
Suthers, the mayor of Colorado Springs, said on NBC’s “Today” program that the district attorney would file motions with the court on Monday to allow law enforcement officials to talk more about any criminal history “this person may have had.”
Of the 25 injured at Club Q, at least seven are in critical condition, authorities said. Some were injured as they tried to flee, and it is unclear if all were shot, a police spokesman said. Suthers told the AP there was “reason to hope” that all those hospitalized would recover.
Meanwhile, detectives were investigating whether anyone helped the suspect before the attack, said Vasquez, the police chief. He said patrons who intervened during the attack were “heroic” and prevented more deaths.
On its Facebook page, Club Q also thanked the “quick responses from heroic customers who calmed down the gunman and ended this hate attack”.
Club Q is a gay and lesbian nightclub with a Saturday drag show, according to the website. The nightclub’s Facebook page said planned entertainment included a “punk and alternative show” ahead of a birthday party, with a Sunday drag brunch for all ages.
Drag events have recently become a focus of anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and protests as opponents, including politicians, have proposed banning children from them.
President Joe Biden said that while the motive for the shootings was not yet clear, “we know that the LGBTQI+ community has been the victim of horrific hate violence in recent years.”
“Places that are supposed to be safe spaces of acceptance and celebration should never turn into places of terror and violence,” he said. “We cannot and must not tolerate hate.”
Colorado Governor Jared Polis, who in 2018 became the first openly gay man elected U.S. governor, called the shooting “sickening.”
Heartbroken by the violent attack on a Colorado Springs LGBTQ nightclub. Our hearts go out to the victims and their families.
We need to do more to end the horrific epidemic of gun violence in our country and to STOP violence against the LGBTQ+ community. We do not tolerate hate.
— Representative Ted Lieu (@RepTedLieu) November 21, 2022
“My heart breaks for the family and friends of those who are lost, injured and traumatized,” Polis said.
Lawmakers and activists across the country also called for an end to gun violence and hateful rhetoric against the community.
“The hate-fueled rhetoric and bigotry endangering the lives and safety of our LGBTQ+ community must stop,” Congresswoman Cori Bush wrote on Twitter.
A makeshift memorial was erected near the club on Sunday, featuring flowers, a stuffed animal, candles and a sign reading “Love over hate” next to a rainbow-colored heart.
Ryan Johnson, who lives near the club and was there last month, said it was one of only two nightlife venues for Colorado Springs’ LGBTQ community. “It’s kind of a go-to for Pride,” the 26-year-old said.