The Club Q attack suspect appeared in court today, facing 305 charges that include first-degree murder, attempted murder, assault and bias-motivated crimes.
Anderson Lee Aldrich, 22, is accused of killing five people and injuring 22 in a suspected hate crime after opening fire at the LGBTQ club on North Academy Boulevard on Nov. 19, and is being held without bond in El Paso County Jail.
The suspect appeared in-person in court for the first time to face the charges filed by 4th Judicial District Attorney Michael Allen this morning. (Aldrich’s defense team has said Aldrich identifies as nonbinary and referred to them as “they” or “Mx. Aldrich” during the hearing).
At a press conference after Aldrich’s court appearance, Allen said his office filed a total of 305 counts of charges. They range from first-degree murder, a class 1 felony, to bias-motivated crimes causing bodily injury, a “very low level” and probation-eligible class 5 felony, Allen said. The maximum sentence in Colorado for first-degree murder, Aldrich’s most severe charge, is life in prison without parole. The state abolished the death penalty in March 2020.
The shooting victim count has changed multiple times since Nov. 19. That and the charge counts may continue to be adjusted, as the Colorado Springs Police Department and Allen’s office identify more people who were in the club that night, Allen said.
The hundreds of charges and inclusion of bias-motivated crimes “tells the public, this community, this state and this nation that we are taking this case as serious as we possibly can,” Allen said during the conference.
“We’re not going to tolerate actions against community members based on their sexual identity,” Allen said. “Members of that community have been harassed, intimidated and abused for too long. That’s not going to occur in the 4th Judicial District.”
Despite Aldrich’s stated nonbinary identity, Allen said the prosecution believes there’s enough evidence to prove the suspect was motivated by hate against LGBTQ people. Aldrich’s identity is “part of the picture,” Allen said.
“We feel like we have enough evidence to charge those bias-motivated charges,” he said.
4th Judicial District Judge Michael McHenry during the hearing also ordered Aldrich’s arrest affidavit from the shooting unsealed by the end of the day on Dec. 7. It was sealed the day after the shooting to protect the early stages of the investigation, Allen said.
During the Dec. 6 hearing, Allen’s prosecution team requested one more day to prepare victims and their families for the release of the affidavit, which is likely to be reported in the media and include descriptions of the shooting.
McHenry also scheduled Aldrich’s next court appearances, a three-day preliminary hearing, for Feb. 22 to 24, but said dates could change later due to objections from Aldrich’s team of public defenders. They preferred to delay the preliminary hearing to May or June, said Joseph Archambault, chief trial deputy at the Office of the Colorado State Public Defender, which McHenry thought would be unusual.
More to know:
Still no further information has been released about a June 2021 bomb threat and related charges believed to be connected to Aldrich. That case was sealed after those charges were dropped last year, and Allen said he’s precluded from speaking about it. Questions remain about whether the bomb threat incident could have triggered a seizure of any firearms in Aldrich’s possession at the time, through Colorado’s red flag law.
Aldrich's mother, Laura Voepel, was charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest on Nov. 20, hours after Aldrich is believed to have carried out the Club Q attack, reported KUSA, a Denver-based NBC affiliate.
At her apartment building on Union Boulevard, Voepel "made unreasonable noise directly next to multiple apartments," according to her court summons, as reported by KUSA. "While I attempted to place subject into custody, she became combative by physically resisting officers control by force." Other outlets reported she was yelling about the shooting and said, "My son just died."
Voepel also has multiple outstanding warrants for her arrest in other states, KUSA reported. CSPD Public Information Officer Lt. Pamela Castro told the Business Journal on Nov. 21 that Aldrich's mother was not cooperating with police.
Allen declined to answer if Aldrich's family has been cooperative with prosecutors, when asked during today's press conference.