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Colorado gay club murderer confesses to hate crime and is convicted

The convicted gunman who killed five people in a 2022 attack at a Colorado gay club pleaded guilty to federal hate crimes and weapons possession charges on Tuesday and was sentenced to multiple life sentences without the possibility of parole.

Anderson Lee Aldrich, 24, was already sentenced to life in prison after pleading guilty to murder in a separate case last year for intentionally attacking employees and patrons at Club Q in Colorado Springs.

Earlier this year, Aldrich also agreed to plead guilty to all 74 federal charges and accept additional life sentences for planning and carrying out the attack after he entered the club armed with a semi-automatic rifle and a pistol during a drag show on November 19, 2022. Five people were killed and more than a dozen others injured before two patrons managed to wrest the weapons from Aldrich.

Aldrich, who is incarcerated in a state prison in Wyoming, pleaded guilty before Judge Charlotte Sweeney in U.S. District Court in Denver.

“This community is much stronger than you,” Sweeney told Aldrich as he handed down the sentence. “This community is stronger than your armor, stronger than your weapons, and it is certainly stronger than your hatred.”

At the beginning of the hearing, several survivors and relatives of victims described Club Q as a rare haven for LGBT people in the area and described the pain of losing those killed.

Wyatt Kent, a drag performer at Club Q, was working there the night of the attack along with his partner Daniel Aston, a bartender who was killed by Aldrich.

“All of my 22 years before that night can never be recovered, but in that regard, I forgive you,” Kent told Aldrich in court. “We as a queer community are the resilient ones, and we continue to hold that beauty within us. We continue to find joy in trauma and pain, and unfortunately those are things you will never experience for the rest of your life.”

Several relatives of victims criticized the US government's decision not to impose the death penalty.

“Since they don't want to give you the death penalty, I think you should eat rat poison and then go to hell,” Estella Bell said in court, addressing the murderer of her grandson Raymond Vance. The 22-year-old Vance had gone to Club Q with his girlfriend to celebrate a birthday.

Aldrich declined to comment before the verdict was announced.

Before Tuesday's hearing, Aldrich's lawyers and prosecutors in the U.S. Attorney's Office in Denver agreed that federal sentencing guidelines called for multiple concurrent life sentences without the possibility of parole, followed by a term of 190 years in prison.

Among the most serious crimes to which Aldrich pleaded guilty was the charge of intentionally killing a person because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.