Anderson Lee Aldrich shot more than 30 people at a Colorado Springs nightclub. Victims fought back

Anderson Lee Aldrich, who killed five and wounded more than 30 during a mass shooting at Club Q in Colorado Springs, Colorado, has pleaded guilty to 53 charges as part of a plea deal.

When the shooter’s image was first released, Americans were met by the visage of a bloated, beaten face covered in bruises.

The patrons at the LGBT+ bar they attacked fought back, leaving Aldrich — who claims to be nonbinary and uses they/them pronouns — bloodied and immobilised when police arrived.

The image was an outlier among mass shooter mug shots. Most mass shooters either die at the shooting or live to stare vacantly into a prison camera before they’re locked away. Aldrich’s showed the result of victims fighting back.

Now, the mass shooter has pleaded guilty to 53 of the more than 300 counts the state brought against them.

Here’s what we know about the case:

On 19 November 2022, Aldrich walked into Club Q in Colorado Springs and opened fire with an AR-15-style rifle.

That night, drag performer Del Lusional was hosting an alternative and punk show at the club — a DJ was set to follow.

But the gunshots rang out and Aldrich killed five, injuring 17 others with gunshot wounds, and causing incidental injury to 17 others.

Eventually a US Navy sailor, Thomas James, grabbed the shooter’s gun barrel, burning his hand in the process. The two struggled, and Mr James was shot, but he continued to fight against the shooter until Richard Fierro, an Army veteran who was visiting the club with his family, “went into combat mode” and tackled the shooter. He tossed away the shooter’s rifle and grabbed their handgun, and began beating them with the firearm. Others — including a woman in heels — joined in to help ensure the shooter could injure no one else.

“I grabbed the gun out of his hand and just started hitting him in the head, over and over,” Mr Fierro told The New York Times.

Police arrived and took the shooter into custody after accidentally mistaking Mr Fierro as a possible suspect and tackling him.

He would later be hailed as a hero for likely stopping the shooting from becoming significantly more deadly. However, he did not escape unscathed — on top of the likely trauma experiencing a mass shooting must cause, he also had to grieve with his daughter, whose long-time boyfriend, Raymond Green Vance, was shot and killed in the attack.

Kelly Loving, Daniel Aston, Derrick Rump, and Ashley Paugh were also killed.

Once Aldrich was named at the suspect in the shooting, the American media and the curious public did what they always do; they began a frantic search to learn as much as possible about the suspect and glean some sense of their motives.

First the public learned that the shooter allegedly used they/them pronouns, according to their attorneys.

This came as a surprise to long-time friend Xavier Kraus, who said Aldrich did not use they/them pronouns before the shooting, never identified as nonbinary, and allegedly regularly used racist and homophobic slurs. He told NBC News Aldrich’s claim to be nonbinary is a “total troll on the community, and a total troll on the system.”

Another individual close to Aldrich made headlines next — his father.

CBS8 San Diego caught up with the father, Aaron Brink, who then gave the reporters a rambling, bizarre, and definitively bigoted interview.

“I was scared. I was like ‘Oh my god, s***, is he gay?’ And he’s not gay,” Mr Brink said when asked about his son’s alleged shooting at the LGBT+ nightclub.

Mr Brink, a former MMA figure turned porn star, let out a mock sigh of relief after his comment.

He went on to explain that he was a Mormon, and Mormons “don’t do gay.”

He later said his child was mad at him, and the shooting was Aldrich wanting to “poke the old man.” He then told reporters he was “sorry I let my son down” after condemning the shooting.

But he also admitted to encouraging his child to use violence to solve problems.

“I praised him for violent behavior really early. I told him it works. It is instant and you’ll get immediate results,” he said.

Aldrich appeared to have an interest in violence, based on a previous run-in with law enforcement and an FBI probe into their internet usage.

In 2021, Aldrich livestreamed themselves having a standoff with police. In the video, Aldirch is armed with a rifle and is wearing tactical armor.

“If they breach I’m going to blow it to holy hell,” they say in the video.

Police were at the home after Aldrich’s mother reported they had threatened her with a homemade bomb.

No charges ever resulted from the incident.

Since their arrest, the FBI have alleged that Aldrich created a pair of websites filled with hate and the glorification of mass murder.

The FBI described one site as a “free speech” focused forum where users anonymously post racist and anti-Semitic memes, comments, and videos, according to NBC News.

A video on the homepage titled “Wrong Targets” advocates for the murder of civilians as a way to “assassinate the elites at the top” and to “cleanse” society.

The second site — linked to the first by a message asking users to “Visit Our Brother Site!” directs traffic to a webpage with four short video links, each uploaded in two formats, which the FBI claims were posted to the site just hours before the Q Club shooting.

Two of the videos show the interior of a truck in the middle of the night. A clock reads 11.44, and a voice says “Ok.” A frame in the video shows a reflection in the rearview mirror resembling Aldrich. The video ends.

Aldrich began the attack on Club Q at 11.55pm.

The other video on the site was the livestream footage from a mass shooting in Buffalo, New York, that left 10 people dead.

Aldrich was charged with 305 criminal counts, including first-degree murder, attempted murder, assault, and at least 48 counts of committing crimes motivated by anti-LGBT+ bias.

Prosecutors argued that Aldrich be charged with hate crimes, pointing out that his mother was reportedly nonbinary and forced him to go to LGBT+ clubs.

Aldrich ultimately accepted a plea deal, reducing the number of charges to 53, but which included all five first-degree murder charges, 46 attempted first-degree murder charges, and two bias-driven crimes charges.

Reporting has also revealed that Aldrich’s materal grandfather is Republican assemblyman Randy Voepel, who described the Capitol riot as “Lexington and Concord.”

“First shots fired against tyranny,” the assemblyman wrote at the time.

Investigators also revealed that Aldrich had had been to Club Q on at least six other occasions, each lasting only a few minutes and ending without incident. One of those visits was earlier on the night of the shooting.

Aldrich’s defence said they were not bigoted, but were high on drugs, sleep deprived, and came from an abusive family, according to the Associated Press.

Investigators testified during earlier hearings to determine the eligibility of hate crimes that they allegedly found a hat in Aldrich’s car with a phone taped onto it. They speculated that he may have considered livestreaming the attack.

They also found several high-capacity magazines and a drum capable of carrying 60 rounds of ammunition at the scene.

When they searched Aldrich’s apartment, they allegedly found gun-making materials, receipts for weapons, and a sketch of the interior of Club Q. Their search also led them to conclude that the weapons recovered from the scene were mostly “ghost guns” — homemade weapons largely without identifying information like serial numbers.

The defence reminded the court it was not illegal to make a gun at home.

Joseph Archambault, one of Aldrich’s attorneys, said the shooter expressed remorse after the killing, which he argues is a sign that it was not motivated by hate.

“It does not excuse it, but it is categorically different from people who target a group,” he said, according to court records.

Judge Michael McHenry ultimately ruled that Aldrich could be tried for hate crimes.

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