Club Q shooter pleads guilty to 74 federal charges, sentenced to life in prison

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
After a mass shooting at Club Q in Colorado Springs, a makeshift memorial grows outside the LGBTQ club on Monday, Nov. 28, 2022. Daniel Aston, Kelly Loving, Ashley Paugh, Derrick Rump and Raymond Green Vance were killed in the shooting.

Updated at 4:44 p.m. on Tuesday, June 18, 2024

The mass shooter who killed five people and wounded 17 others at an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs pleaded guilty to 74 federal charges on Tuesday. 

The plea deal, reversing an earlier plea of not guilty in the Club Q shooting, carries 55 life sentences plus 190 years in prison. 

Among the federal counts against 24-year-old Anderson Lee Aldrich — who uses they/them pronouns — were 50 hate crime charges. The sentence is in addition to five consecutive life sentences handed down in a state case last summer. Aldrich also pleaded guilty during that case. 

“This was a premeditated and calculated plan, motivated by sheer hatred, to mass murder members of the LGBTQIA+ community,” U.S. District Judge Charlotte Sweeney told Aldrich after accepting their plea.“You targeted this community where it lives and breathes.” 

Tuesday’s sentencing closes the federal inquiry into the Nov. 19, 2022 attack, which saw Aldrich enter Club Q around midnight and fire an AR-15-style rifle into the crowd. 

The shooting killed Daniel Aston, 28; Raymond Green Vance, 22; Ashley Paugh, 35; Derrick Rump, 38; and Kelly Loving, 40.

Multiple survivors and family members of the shooting victims at the courthouse Tuesday asked Sweeney to reject the plea deal in favor of the death penalty. 

“I don’t believe they should be allowed to live,” said Jeff Aston, whose son Daniel was fatally shot while working as a bartender at Club Q. Judge Sweeney told the court the death penalty was not pursued as a sentence in the case.  

“This was one of the most violent hate-fueled mass shootings targeting the LGBTQIA+ community in our nation's history,” said Assistant Attorney General of the U.S. Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division Kristen Clarke in a press conference after the sentencing. “Today's sentencing should send a loud message. We will not tolerate hate in our country and purveyors of bias-motivated violence will be held accountable for their actions.”

Clarke said the Justice Department’s investigation into the shooting found Aldrich had visited Club Q “at least eight times” as part of their efforts to plan the attack. Investigators found maps of the club’s layout and discovered more than $9,000 in weapons-related purchases leading up to the shooting. 

A man in an off-white sweater speaks into several cameras in front of him to the left.
Dan Boyce/CPR News
Club Q survivor Wyatt Kent speaks to the press outside a courthouse on Tuesday, June 18, 2024, after the person found guilty of killing five and wounding 17 others was sentenced to life in prison.

Aldrich told the court they now take at least five medications prescribed by a prison psychologist, and that doctors have diagnosed them with a range of mental disorders, from depression and substance abuse disorder to PTSD and generalized anxiety disorder. 

Aldrich said they are not taking any antipsychotic medication.

Defense attorneys described Aldrich as the product of an abusive upbringing, a person radicalized by the internet and twisted by drug abuse.

The Justice Department said Aldrich espoused anti-gay and anti-transgender views through online platforms and knew their attack would coincide with the club’s recognition of the Transgender day of Remembrance.

Several survivors of the attack spoke to reporters outside the courtroom following the sentencing. Wyatt Kent was performing in drag at Club Q as part of celebrations for his 23rd birthday on the night of the shooting. He said despite losing his partner, Daniel Aston, in the attack, he wanted to extend words of forgiveness to Aldrich. 

A woman speaks from a podium at the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Colorado. Three men in suits stand behind her.
Dan Boyce/CPR News
Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the U.S. Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division speaks to reporters following the sentencing of Anderson Lee Aldrich on 74 federal charges stemming from the Nov. 2022 Club Q shooting. Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Colorado Matt Kirsch, FBI Special Agent Mark D. Michalek and ATF Special Agent Brent Beavers stand behind.

“I hope that this person can find clarity, peace and a sense of their own life, unfortunately it will be behind bars,” Kent said. “But, that helps all of us move forward in a sense of closure.”

Judge Sweeney recommended Aldrich serve their sentence with the Colorado Department of Corrections rather than in federal prison. The sentence does not carry the possibility for parole.

Editor's note: The article was updated with additional comment.