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Club Q shooter is sentenced to 5 consecutive life terms after pleading guilty

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

The man who killed five people and injured more than a dozen others in an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs last November will spend the rest of his life in prison. Anderson Lee Aldrich was sentenced without possibility of parole. Abigail Beckman is covering that story. She's with our member station KRCC. Good morning.

ABIGAIL BECKMAN, BYLINE: Hi, Steve.

INSKEEP: There have been so many mass shootings that I feel obliged to get you to remind us what happened in this particular one.

BECKMAN: So Club Q is a long-standing place for LGBTQ+ people in Colorado Springs to gather and celebrate as a community. It's been open for 20 years. On November 19 of last year, Anderson Lee Aldrich went into the club and began firing indiscriminately. And in less than five minutes, five people were shot to death. Dozens of others were fleeing for their lives. Three patrons inside the club actually tackled the shooter and held him down until police arrived. And since then, there's been no real question that Aldrich was responsible for the shooting.

INSKEEP: Well, if there was no question, how did this play out in court?

BECKMAN: Well, the shooter pleaded guilty to five counts of first-degree murder and 46 counts of attempted first-degree murder. There was also a plea of no contest to several bias-motivated crimes, and that's the term that Colorado uses for hate crimes. The judge in the case handed out a sentence of five consecutive life sentences, plus a whopping 2,000 additional years in prison.

INSKEEP: Two thousand years?

BECKMAN: Yeah, that's right. So state Judge Michael McHenry addressed the courtroom and talked about how this country was founded on the idea that all persons are created equal. The judge actually told the shooter their actions reflect the deepest malice of the human heart. And the local district attorney says it's the second-longest prison sentence in state history here in Colorado. The longest was that of the gunman in the Aurora movie theater shooting, and that's where 12 people were killed. Seventy others were injured in that shooting in 2012.

INSKEEP: What have you heard from victims and survivors of this shooting?

BECKMAN: Yesterday, we heard courtroom testimony from survivors and relatives of victims for almost four hours. And after that, I spoke to RJ Lewis, who works for Club Q and was at the venue the night of the shooting.

RJ LEWIS: Today I feel like justice has been served legally, but I do hope he has to suffer the pain that we victims have to suffer every day. There's not a morning that I don't have to wake up thinking that five of our friends and family members from our community is no longer here because of him.

BECKMAN: And at a press conference after the hearing, Jeff and Sabrina Aston talked about their son, Daniel. He was one of two transgender people killed in the shooting. The parents said they were amazed at the number of friends their son made in his short time in Colorado Springs.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

SABRINA ASTON: And they all said, you know, Daniel helped them, especially when he had friends that were, like, transitioning like himself. And he would coach them and tell them how to do it, you know, and be supportive.

INSKEEP: Abigail, you mentioned somebody who works - present tense - at Club Q. Is it reopening?

BECKMAN: That's the plan, hopefully by the anniversary this November. Club owner Matthew Haynes said the decision to reopen has been really difficult, but he decided this act of violence is not where Club Q's story should end. Here he is speaking at a press conference yesterday.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MATTHEW HAYNES: Over 20 years, there's been tens of thousands of people who have gone through there. Tens of thousands of people have made their friends. They've reconciled within themselves their feelings of sexuality, their feelings of gender differences. It's so important that continues because unfortunately, even with this ending today, the mission of hate isn't ending.

BECKMAN: He said safe spaces are still needed, and the shooting won't prevent Club Q from being that space for generations to come.

INSKEEP: Abigail Beckman of KRCC, thanks so much.

BECKMAN: Yeah, thank you, Steve. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Abigail Beckman
Abigail grew up in Palmer Lake, Co. She has a bachelor's degree in Mass Communications and Spanish as well as a Master's degree in communications. Previously, she worked for the Dodge City Daily Globe in Dodge City, Kan. and for 89.1 KMUW in Wichita Kan.