The 23 year old gunman who attacked Club Q in Colorado last year, killing five people and injuring 19 others, has pleaded guilty to five counts of first-degree murder and 46 counts of attempted murder.
Anderson Lee Aldrich appeared in court yesterday, receiving a sentence of five consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole.
“When you commit a hate crime, you are targeting a group of people for their simple existence,” Judge Michael McHenry said during the trial.
“The sentence in this court is that such hate will not be tolerated.”
Judge McHenry went on to add that he believes Aldrich’s actions “reflect the deepest malice of the human heart”.
“And malice is almost always born of ignorance and fear,” Judge McHenry added.
The shooting took place on Transgender Day of Rememberance last year, and has since sparked international outrage about the pedalling of anti-LGBTQIA+ rhetoric from politicians.
The sentencing comes after a long series of developments, including the shooter’s lawyers claiming that Aldrich identifies as nonbinary to avoid a hate crime charge, as well as the discovery that Aldrich ran a neo-nazi website and practiced shooting on rainbow targets.
Victims’ families call Aldrich a ‘monster’
Some of the victims’ family members addressed the court following the plea.
“This thing sitting in this court room is not a human, it is a monster,” said Jessica Fiero, mother of one of the injured victims who also lost her boyfriend during the attack.
“The devil awaits with open arms.”
Sabrina Aston, whose late son Daniel was one of Club Q’s bartenders, said: “I will never forgive you for this heinous crime.”
Daniel’s partner Wyatt Kent said he chose to forgive Aldrich, who he said was “a symbol of a broken system, of hate and vitriol pushed against us as a community”.
“What brings joy to me is that this hurt individual will never be able to see the joy and the light that has been wrought into our community as an outcome,” he added.
Richard Fierro, one of the heroes who helped stop the attack that night, also spoke out during the trial, calling Aldrich a ‘terrorist’.
“I had more respect for the adversaries I fought overseas than I do for this individual,” he said.
“I hope the words I yelled into the back of your head that night echo for the rest of your life.”
Aldrich declined to address the court ahead of the sentencing and showed no emotion as the families made statements.
Aldrich is “deeply sorry” says attorney
Aldrich’s defence attorney went on to say that Aldrich was “deeply remorseful and deeply sorry” and “know they can’t do anything to make it better”.
Aldrich also revealed to Associated Press that he felt a need to “take responsibility for what happened”, but claimed that he was also “on a very large plethora of drugs” at the time.
When asked by the judge on Monday, Aldrich said he remains on a variety of medication, including mood stabilisers and anti-psychotic drugs.
District Attorney Michael Allen, however, says Aldrich “knew exactly what they were doing”, calling the previous comments “self-serving in nature” and “disgusting”.
Allen also drew attention to the fact that Aldrich had drawn diagrams in advance, emphasising the premeditated nature of the attack.
He added that the evidence suggests months of planning by Aldrich, including intentionally evading background checks to purchase weapons.
“These victims were targeted for who they were and are,” Mr Allen said.
He also went on to reject the notion that Aldrich was nonbinary:
“There’s zero evidence prior to the shooting that he was nonbinary,” said Allen, also repeatedly called Aldrich a coward.
“He exhibited extreme hatred for the people in the LGBTQ+ community, and so I think it was a stilted effort to avoid any bias motivated or hate charges.”
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