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Colorado Club Q shooter to plead guilty to new federal hate crime, gun charges to avoid death penalty

The Colorado shooter who killed five people at an LGBTQ+ nightclub plans to plead guilty to new federal charges for hate crimes and firearm violations to avoid the death penalty.

The Colorado shooter who killed five people at an LGBTQ+ nightclub plans to plead guilty to new federal charges for hate crimes and firearm violations under an agreement that would allow the defendant to avoid the death penalty.

Anderson Aldrich, 23, made a deal with prosecutors to plead guilty to 50 hate crime charges and 24 firearm violations, according to court documents released Tuesday. Aldrich would receive multiple life sentences on top of a 190-year sentence under the proposed agreement, which still requires a judge's approval.

The court unsealed the plea agreement reached on Jan. 9 after Aldrich had pleaded not guilty during an initial court appearance on Tuesday afternoon. The gun charges can carry a maximum penalty of death, the agreement shows.

Aldrich, who claimed following the shooting to be nonbinary and to use they/them pronouns, was sentenced to life in prison in June after pleading guilty to state charges of murder and 46 counts of attempted murder, one for each person at Club Q in Colorado Springs on Nov. 19, 2022.


The new charges and planned agreement were made public just days after federal prosecutors said they would seek the death penalty in another hate crime case in which a White gunman killed 10 Black people at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, on May 14, 2022. The decision does not impact Attorney General Merrick Garland's moratorium to halt federal executions.

Ashtin Gamblin, who was shot nine times and seriously wounded during the attack at Club Q, was in court for Tuesday's hearing and described the shooting as a hate crime. She also said she told federal prosecutors Aldrich should be sentenced to the death penalty for the attack, even if it is never carried out, because she wanted the defendant to "sit with the thought of not knowing when" death would happen or that the punishment could be carried out at "any day or any time."

Aldrich also pleaded no contest to state charges for hate crimes under a plea agreement.

Jeff Aston, whose son Daniel Aston was shot and killed in the attack, called the shooting a "hateful, stupid, heinous and cowardly act" and said that he wants Aldrich to suffer as much as the victims and their families.

Michael Anderson, who was bartending at Club Q when the shooting happened, said the federal charges would serve as a deterrent by "sending a message to people who want to commit violent acts" against the LGBTQ+ community and "lets them know this is not something that is swept away or overlooked."


"No matter how much justice is served statewide or federally, it can’t undo bullets fired," Anderson said.

During Aldrich's sentencing in state court last year, Colorado Springs area District Attorney Michael Allen said the possibility of receiving the death penalty in the federal system was a "big part of what motivated the defendant" to plead guilty to the state charges.

Colorado abolished its death penalty in 2020.

Aldrich declined to speak at the sentencing hearing in state court and has yet to disclose a reason behind hanging out in the club, going outside and returning dressed in body armor to carry out the shooting with a rifle. The shooting was stopped by a Navy officer who grabbed the barrel of the rifle, burning his hand, and an Army veteran who helped subdue Aldrich until police arrived.

Prosecutors say Aldrich had visited the club at least six times before the night of the shooting and that Aldrich’s mother had forced her child to go.

The defendant admitted to The Associated Press during phone calls from jail to being on a "very large plethora of drugs" and abusing steroids when the shooting took place. Aldrich said claims that the attack was motivated by hate were "completely off base."

The district attorney described those statements as self-serving and said Aldrich claiming to be nonbinary is an attempt to avoid hate crime charges, noting that there was no evidence of Aldrich identifying as such before the shooting.

The shooting came more than a year after Aldrich was arrested for threatening family members and vowing to become "the next mass killer″ while also stockpiling weapons, body armor and bomb-making materials. The charges in that case were eventually dropped after Aldrich's mother and grandparents refused to cooperate with prosecutors.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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