The alleged gunman in the mass shooting that killed five people at a gay club in Colorado in November initially blamed the shooting on the patrons attempting to keep them pinned, according to testimony given by police officers on Wednesday.
Anderson Lee Aldrich, 22, has been charged with more than 320 counts related to the shooting at Club Q on November 19, including murder and attempted murder. Aldrich, whose defense attorneys say is nonbinary, also faces hate crimes charges related to the massacre.
The suspect is accused of killing Daniel Aston, 28; Kelly Loving, 40; Derrick Rump, 38; Ashley Paugh, 35; and Raymond Green Vance, 22. Around 20 others were injured.
The preliminary hearing that began on Wednesday will determine whether or not the mass shooting at the LGBTQ+ nightclub Cub Q in Colorado Springs, Colo., should be prosecuted as a hate crime.
Prosecutors brought several detectives who have been investigating the shooting to the witness stand as well as the police officers who first arrived at the scene. There, the witnesses detailed new information surrounding the shooting, including more information about Aldrich and their history with neo-Nazism and white supremacy.
The suspect also was known to use homophobic and racist slurs while playing video games online, one detective said during the hearing. Detective Rebecca Joines said that Aldrich also posted an image targeting a Pride parade. She said an image presented by prosecutors "looks like a gay pride parade with a rifle scope centered over one of the individuals."
Photos presented during the hearing showed the carnage at the club showed shell casings scattered around the venue. Part of a tooth was found just outside the club’s exit. Detectives also described how people were injured: A woman was shot in the face trying to flee with her daughter and others playing dead.
“I could hear people screaming crying in there. It smelled a lot of gunpowder,” said police officer Connor Wallick, one of the first to arrive at the club. He added that the music was still playing.
Wallick said while he was arresting Aldrich he asked them questions like whether the guns near them were theirs. “They said no,” he said.
The police officer added, “They kept making statements that the person who was on top of them was the shooter in the incident. They also mentioned, prior to that, that the shooter was hiding.”
Authorities testified that parts of an AR-15 style gun were found at Aldrich’s apartment as were a rainbow target and a sketch of Club Q. Testimony also revealed that Aldrich ran a neo-Nazi website and had visited the club previously.
Police also described the heroic efforts by patrons including that of Richard Fierro and Thomas James. James grabbed the barrel of the rifle used in the attack. Even after he was shot, he continued to try to fight the suspect. Fierro pinned the suspect to the ground while police arrived.
During the afternoon session, the judge pointed to comments made in the hearing's livestreaming platform under a user with a similar name as Aldrich's mother. The judge brought the defense and prosecutors to his chambers to discuss the comments that he said would be of interest to the parties and the investigation.
The hearing is expected to last until Friday.