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Preliminary charges against the man who allegedly killed five people and injured at least 17 others in a shooting at a gay club in Colorado Springs include murder and bias-motivated crime.
Those were connected to an arrest warrant that remains under seal, and the final list could change and include other crimes, the El Paso County district attorney said Monday during a news conference. The investigation remains ongoing, and it’s likely the seal on the court documents will be lifted in the next few days, District Attorney Michael Allen said.
“The devastation this violent act has had on our community cannot be measured,” Allen said. “But we do know that we will respond to it in a strong way, that we will hold people accountable as we identify what charges should be filed in this case.”
The suspect in the shooting, 22-year-old Anderson Lee Aldrich, remains hospitalized with unspecified injuries. The two people inside the club who confronted him, preventing even more deaths, were also identified on Monday as Thomas James and Richard Fierro.
Fierro, an Army veteran who owns a local brewery, told the New York Times that he was watching the drag show at Club Q with his wife, daughter, and friends and said he acted instinctively. On Monday, Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers praised him as a humble man seeking to protect his family; both Fierro and James have been hailed as heroes.
“I don’t know exactly what I did, I just went into combat mode,” Fierro told the Times.
Citing the ongoing investigation, authorities said they could not answer questions on Monday about how the shooter obtained two guns, which included a rifle. They also declined to say anything about motive or what evidence supported the bias-motivated crime charge, which is one of Colorado’s hate crimes charges. A representative for the Department of Justice also declined to say if federal hate crimes charges are possible.
Questions also remain about a 2021 standoff involving the El Paso County sheriff’s office and Aldrich after his mother reported that he had threatened her with a homemade bomb and other weapons. No explosives were found, but Aldrich was arrested on suspicion of five felonies. It’s unclear what happened next, and a spokesperson for the Colorado court system has said no public records exist in connection with a criminal case.
Allen, the district attorney, explained on Monday that since 2019, Colorado has had a restrictive law that automatically seals cases that are dismissed for any reason. Once a case is sealed, officials cannot confirm that it ever existed and may only say that no public records exist, he said.
Whatever did or didn’t happen in court, the circumstances of the 2021 arrest have also raised questions about whether Colorado’s red flag law could have been used to keep guns away from Aldrich. Allen said that would have been the responsibility of law enforcement or private citizens, not the district attorney’s office. The El Paso County sheriff’s office didn’t immediately respond to questions from BuzzFeed News, but Sheriff Bill Elder has previously spoken about his belief that mental health treatment should be prioritized over gun restrictions.
On Monday, Suthers, the Colorado Springs mayor, said he would caution against an assumption that Aldrich’s 2021 arrest should have resulted in the application of the red flag law.
As of Monday, 13 people remain hospitalized and five people have been treated and released.
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