The 23-year-old accused of carrying out a deadly shooting rampage at an L.G.B.T.Q. nightclub in Colorado Springs last year is scheduled appear in court on Monday to be formally charged with more than 300 counts including murder, attempted murder and hate crimes.
The appearance will be the first time in months that survivors of the shooting and family members of those killed will face the accused. Several of them said that they expected the defendant, Anderson Lee Aldrich, to plead guilty on Monday and to receive multiple life sentences in prison.
The victims and family members said that plea negotiations had been in the works for more than a month, and that prosecutors had informed them that the defendant was expected to formally plead guilty. The family members and survivors requested anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the plea arrangement, which would not be finalized until the court proceedings.
Prosecutors and defense lawyers declined to comment.
A guilty plea could avoid a drawn-out trial and bring the state’s criminal case to a close, seven months after the November shooting.
Several victims said they were preparing to make statements in court to describe the pain they and their families had endured since that November night when a shooter stormed into the nightclub, a haven for L.G.B.T.Q. people in Colorado Springs, and began firing on the crowd before being subdued by customers.
Five people were killed: Daniel Aston and Derrick Rump, who both worked at Club Q; and Kelly Loving, Raymond Green Vance and Ashley Paugh, who were customers. About 20 others were hurt, many with serious injuries. Many of the wounded knew one another through work or Colorado Springs’ small L.G.B.T.Q. community.
The hearing on Monday comes just days after some victims and survivors expressed frustration with slow payouts from a fund meant to help them recover.
For months, survivors and victims’ families have made a point to attend each hearing as the case moved forward. Some said it was difficult to keep their anger and grief in check as they sat in the courtroom, listening to graphic details of the rampage.
Mx. Aldrich identifies as nonbinary and uses they/them pronouns, but legal experts said their gender identity alone did not preclude them from facing hate-crimes charges. Prosecutors said that the defendant had a “particular disdain” for the L.G.B.T.Q. community and had shared an image on a social-media app of a rifle scope trained on a Pride celebration.
“Those are my friends’ lives,” said Ashtin Gamblin, who was shot nine times as she worked the door of Club Q the night of the attack. “They were targeted. We were targeted because we are a part of the L.G.B.T.Q. community. There’s absolutely no doubt why he chose Club Q.”
In May, some victims took the first legal step toward filing a civil lawsuit against the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office in Colorado Springs. In a notice of their intent to file, a precursor to a suit, the victims say Mx. Aldrich’s guns should have been seized under Colorado’s red-flag laws after they made a bomb threat against some relatives in 2021 and said they would become “the next mass killer.” An investigation was ended when the relatives refused to testify, law enforcement officials have said.
Whatever the outcome of the state court hearing on Monday, the United States attorney’s office in Denver could still pursue federal hate crimes charges against the defendant, which could result in a death sentence.
Federal officials have declined to comment on whether they will file charges, but some survivors have said that they have spoken to federal investigators in recent months.
Because Colorado no longer has the death penalty, life in prison is the harshest punishment the defendant could receive under state laws.
Defense lawyers have said that their client was not driven by hatred and have instead pointed to mental illness, saying that their client had been taking medication for schizophrenia, depression and anxiety. The defendant expressed remorse in a recent interview with The Associated Press and indicated they planned to take responsibility.
Some victims who attended previous hearings said that the defense statements were a maddening rationalization for the unthinkable. Matthew Haynes, Club Q’s owner, pointed out that millions of Americans dealt with mental illness and took medication without committing mass murder.
Adriana Vance, whose son Raymond Green Vance was killed in the attack, said that the victims of Club Q had bonded and were expecting to be together in court again on Monday.
“We formed a family,” she said.
As Ms. Vance prepared to head to court on Monday, she said she had been trying to focus on her 9-year-old son and keeping his life busy with trips to museums, the pool and the Elitch Gardens amusement park in Denver. She said she was not sure how to navigate the loss, the grief, raising her son without his big brother — any of it.
“I’ve never been through anything like this before,” she said. “I’m trying to do the best I can.”
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