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Club Q Killer Pleads Guilty to 50 Federal Hate Crimes; Sentenced to 55 Life Sentences Plus 190 Years

The killer who gunned down 27 people at a Colorado Springs LGBTQ nightclub — killing five of them — pleaded guilty Tuesday to 74 federal hate crime and weapons charges and was sentenced to 55 life sentences plus 190 years in prison.

Anderson Lee Aldrich pleaded guilty last year to five counts of first-degree murder and other charges in state court and was sentenced to five life sentences plus 2,208 years in prison, as CrimeOnline previously reported. Aldrich initially entered not guilty pleas to the federal charges in January. Fifty of the federal charges were hate crimes; the remaining 24 were gun charges.

Aldrich, 24, entered Club Q on November 19, 2022, and started shooting until patrons tackled the shooter to the ground. Killed in the mass shooting were Daniel Aston, Raymond Green Vance, Kelly Loving, Ashley Paugh, and Dereck Rump.

U.S. District Court Judge Charlotte Sweeney accepted the plea deal prosecutors reached with Aldrich, avoiding the death penalty, the Denver Post reported.

“You went to this community’s safe place and mass-murdered people, but I hope what you learned today is this community is much stronger than you,” Sweeney said, adding that she felt it appropriate the sentencing comes during Pride Month.

Sweeney gave Aldrich an opportunity during Tuesday’s hearing to speak to victims and family members in the courtroom, but the killer declined. Those family members and survivors of the attack spoke harshly to the defendant.

“What I think you should do, because they won’t give you the death penalty, is to eat rat poison and then go to hell,” said Estella Bell, the grandmother of 22-year-old victim Vance.

“I forgive you,” said Wyatt Kent, a drag queen who performed the night of the attack. “We, the queer community, are the resilient ones, and we continue to hold that beauty within each other. We continue to find joy in the trauma and pain and, unfortunately, those are things you will never experience for the rest of your life.”

Daniel Aston’s father, Jeff Aston, said his son was “a good person.”

“He certainly didn’t deserve to go this way,” he said. “We can say all the words we want to defend this person, but they did that horrible act to my son and all the other people, and I don’t believe they should be allowed to live.”

Ashtin Gamblin told the court that Aston saved her life by giving his, stepping in front of her when the gunfire started.

“I’m alive today because of him,” she said. “I was laying on the floor of a bar while my husband was over 5,000 miles away serving his country, and he got a phone call that I was shot. That’s not how that job is supposed to work.”

Aldrich’s sentence is already being served out of state because of safety concerns.