USA TODAY International Edition

Colo. mass shooting suspect expected to accept plea deal

Aldrich would receive life sentence for 300 charges

- N’dea Yancey- Bragg and Justin Reutter

The suspect accused of killing five people and injuring 17 in a mass shooting at a Colorado Springs LGBTQ+ nightclub last year is expected to accept a plea deal that would guarantee a life sentence, The Associated Press reported Thursday.

Anderson Aldrich, 23, is facing more than 300 charges, including first- degree murder and hate crimes, in connection with the shooting at Club Q in November. Colorado law requires victims be notified of potential plea deals, and several of those who survived or lost loved ones in the attack told the AP state prosecutor­s alerted them Aldrich would plead guilty and face the maximum state sentence.

A spokespers­on for Colorado’s Fourth Judicial District Attorney’s office declined to comment on the potential plea deal, and a defense attorney for the suspect did not immediatel­y respond to a request for comment from USA TODAY.

Aldrich is expected to appear in court for an arraignmen­t June 26, according to court records. Prosecutor­s asked survivors to write victim impact statements and prepare for possible release of surveillan­ce footage of the shooting.

Michael Anderson, who was bartending at Club Q at the time of the shooting, told prosecutor­s he wanted a fast resolution of the criminal case.

“My fear is that if this takes years, that prevents the processing and moving on and finding peace beyond this case,” he told the AP. “I would love this wrapped up as quickly as possible under the guarantee that justice is served.”

What is the suspected shooter charged with?

Aldrich, who identifies as nonbinary, faces more than 300 state charges. Defense attorneys argued during a preliminar­y hearing earlier this year that there was no evidence Aldrich committed a hate crime, but Fourth Judicial District Judge Michael McHenry declined to drop any of the charges.

The Justice Department also is considerin­g filing federal hate crime charges, the AP reported, citing a senior law enforcemen­t official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

It’s unclear whether a plea deal for the state charges would also resolve the federal investigat­ion, the outlet reported. The Justice Department did not immediatel­y respond to a request for comment.

Aldrich plans “take responsibi­lity for what happened”

Aldrich is accused of opening fire with an AR- 15 style rifle at the nightclub before bar patrons, including Army veteran Richard Fierro, helped subdue him. Prosecutor­s argued Aldrich targeted the LGBTQ+ club and cited images shared by a Discord account associated with Aldrich, including an image of a rifle sight centered on a Pride parade, and hateful videos posted to a website administer­ed by Aldrich, including a “neo nazi- mass shooter terrorist training video.”

Public defenders representi­ng Aldrich denied they targeted a specific group and pointed toward a number of prescripti­on drugs taken by Aldrich, evidence of drug use found in the suspect’s car and testimony that Aldrich had taken a variety of narcotics before the shooting. When asked whether the attack was motivated by hate, Aldrich told the AP “that’s totally off base.” Aldrich expressed remorse.

“I have to take responsibi­lity for what happened,” Aldrich said.

Some survivors who listened to Aldrich’s recorded jailhouse phone calls with the outlet said Aldrich’s comments were an attempt to avoid the federal death penalty.

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