The shooter who killed five people and endangered the lives of over 40 others at a LGBTQ+ nightclub in Colorado Springs appeared in federal court to face 50 counts of federal hate crimes Tuesday.
Anderson Aldrich, 23, pleaded not guilty to the federal charges.
Last year the shooter was moved to the Wyoming State Penitentiary due to safety concerns of the high-profile case, according to Alondra Gonzalez, spokesperson for the Colorado Department of Corrections.
The charges, which include multiple federal firearm violations, come after the shooter pleaded guilty last June in state court to five counts of murder and 46 counts of attempted murder — one for each person at Club Q during the attack on Nov. 19, 2022.
The shooter, who is nonbinary and uses they/them pronouns, also pleaded no contest to state charges for hate crimes under a plea agreement. The plea was an acknowledgment that there was a good chance the shooter would be convicted of those crimes without admitting guilt. The pleas carried the same weight as a conviction.
The federal charges follow an FBI investigation into the shooting that was confirmed after Aldrich's sentencing in state court. At the time, District Attorney Michael Allen said the threat of the death penalty in the federal system was a "big part of what motivated the defendant" to plead guilty to the state charges.
The shooter declined to speak at the sentencing hearing in state court and hasn't said why they hung out at the club, then went outside and returned dressed in body armor. The shooter began firing an AR-15-style rifle as soon as they came back in.
Prosecutors say the shooter had visited the club at least six times before that night and that the shooter's mother had forced them to go.
In a series of telephone calls from jail, the shooter told The Associated Press they were on a "very large plethora of drugs" and abusing steroids at the time of the attack. When asked whether the attack was motivated by hate, the shooter said that was "completely off-base."
The district attorney called those statements self-serving and characterized the assertion as ringing hollow. He said the shooter's claim of being nonbinary is part of an effort to avoid hate crime charges, saying there was no evidence of the shooter identifying as nonbinary before the shooting.
During hearings in the state case in February, prosecutors said the shooter administered a website that posted a "neo-Nazi white supremacist" shooting training video. A police detective also testified that online gaming friends said the shooter expressed hatred for the police, LBGTQ+ people and minorities, and used racist and homophobic slurs. One said that the shooter sent an online message with a photo of a rifle trained on a gay pride parade.
The attack shattered the sense of safety at Club Q, which served as a refuge for the city's LGBTQ+ community. The shooting was stopped by a Navy officer who grabbed the barrel of the suspect's rifle, burning his hand, and an Army veteran helped subdue and beat the shooter until police arrived, authorities said.
The 2022 attack came more than a year after the shooter was arrested for threatening their grandparents and vowing to become "the next mass killer " while stockpiling weapons, body armor and bomb-making materials.
Those charges were eventually dismissed after the shooter's mother and grandparents refused to cooperate with prosecutors.
Trending stories at Scrippsnews.com