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Gay bar shooting suspect faces murder, hate crime charges

by The Associated Press | November 22, 2022 at 12:00 a.m.
Sabrina Aston looks at childhood photos of her 28-year-old son, Daniel Aston, in her home in Colorado Springs, Colo., on Sunday, Nov. 20, 2022. Daniel Aston was one of five people killed when a gunman opened fire in a gay nightclub in Colorado Springs on Saturday night. (AP Photo/Thomas Peipert)

By THOMAS PEIPERT and JESSE BEDAYN

Associated Press

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) -- The man suspected of opening fire at a gay nightclub in Colorado Springs was being held on murder and hate crimes charges Monday, two days after the attack that killed five people and left 17 others with gunshot wounds.

Online court records showed that 22-year-old Anderson Lee Aldrich faced five murder charges and five charges of committing a bias-motivated crime causing bodily injury in Saturday night's attack at Club Q. He remained hospitalized with unspecified injuries, police said.

The charges were preliminary, and prosecutors had not filed them in court. The hate crime charges would require proving that the gunman was motivated by bias, such as against the victims' actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.

The attack was halted when a patron grabbed a handgun from Aldrich, hit him with it and pinned him down until police arrived minutes later.

Court documents laying out what led to Aldrich's arrest have been sealed at the request of prosecutors, who said releasing details could jeopardize the investigation. Information on whether Aldrich had a lawyer was not immediately available.

A law enforcement official said the suspect used an AR-15-style semi-automatic weapon, but a handgun and additional ammunition magazines also were recovered. The official could not discuss details of the investigation publicly and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

Officials on Monday clarified that 18 people were hurt in the attack, not 25 as they said originally. Among them was one person whose injury was not a gunshot wound. Another victim had no visible injuries, they said.

Thirteen people remained hospitalized Monday, officials said. Five people have been treated and released.

Mayor John Suthers said there was "reason to hope" all of the hospitalized victims would recover.

Questions were quickly raised about why authorities didn't seek to take Aldrich's guns away from him in 2021, when he was arrested after his mother reported he threatened her with a homemade bomb and other weapons.

Though authorities at the time said no explosives were found, gun-control advocates have asked why police didn't use Colorado's "red flag" laws to seize the weapons his mother says he had.

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

It was the sixth mass killing this month, and it came in a year when the nation was shaken by the deaths of 21 in a school shooting in Uvalde, Texas.

The violence pierced the cozy confines of an entertainment venue long cherished as a safe spot for the LGBTQ community in the conservative-leaning city.

"It's a reminder that love and acceptance still have a long way to go," Colorado Springs resident Mary Nikkel said at the site. "This growing monument to people is saying that it matters what happened to you ... We're just not letting it go."

The club was one of few nightspots for the LGBTQ 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.

Detectives were examining whether anyone had helped the suspect before the attack. Police Chief Adrian Vasquez said patrons who intervened during the attack were "heroic" and prevented more deaths.

Print Headline: Gay bar shooting suspect faces murder, hate crime charges

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