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CAPE FEAR MEMORIAL BRIDGE CLOSURE: UPDATES, RESOURCES, AND CONTEXT

Prosecutors lay out evidence that gunman of the Club Q shooting was motivated by hate

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

A judge in Colorado Springs said today there is enough evidence to try the suspect of the Club Q shooting on hate crimes. That shooting was last November. Five people were killed, at least 19 wounded at Club Q, a queer bar in Colorado Springs. Lacretia Wimbley of Colorado Public Radio has been covering the hearing. Hey there, Lacretia.

LACRETIA WIMBLEY, BYLINE: Hello.

KELLY: So this has been one of the big questions, right? Since the Club Q shooting, the motives have remained unknown. This hearing showed evidence that the suspected shooter was motivated by hate?

WIBMLEY: Yes. So prosecutors basically laid out evidence from four police witnesses, attempting to show how Anderson Lee Aldrich intentionally targeted Club Q. They said the 22-year-old defendant had posted neo-Nazi content online and visited the club six times before the day of the shooting. Witnesses also told police Aldrich used racial slurs as well as slurs against LGBTQ people. The judge approved trial on more than 300 charges, including hate crimes.

KELLY: OK, so neo-Nazi content - what else? Tell me more about the evidence that prosecutors presented.

WIBMLEY: Well, witness testimony revealed the suspect's mother may have forced the suspect to go to LGBTQ clubs. Police said they also found inside of Aldrich's home shooting targets with bullet holes, items used to build guns, as well as ammunition. And one of the targets had rainbow colors emanating from a bull's-eye in the middle. The district attorney, Michael Allen, said his team was able to charge hate crimes in this case in part because, a couple years ago, Colorado changed its bias or hate crime law. He said, to make hate charges stick, prosecutors used to have to prove someone acted specifically because of bias or hate.

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MICHAEL ALLEN: But the wording was changed that we only have to prove that somebody acted either wholly or in part by their bias towards a particular group.

KELLY: OK. So that is the case that the prosecution is going to try to make. What about the defense? What did they say?

WIBMLEY: The defense attempted to get hate crime charges dismissed today. They said there is no evidence that clearly shows the suspect intentionally targeted LGBTQ people, but the judge ultimately disagreed. The defense showed photos of pill bottles with Aldrich's name on them for medications for nearly a dozen prescriptions - for things like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and anxiety. And there was also one for Suboxone, which is a medicine used to treat opioid addiction. Aldrich claims to have ingested several illicit drugs the night of the shooting as well.

KELLY: Has the defendant entered a plea?

WIBMLEY: No. That won't happen until the end of May. District Attorney Michael Allen said he believes the defense is considering entering an insanity plea, but we won't know that for sure. But in between now and then, a judge will hold another hearing on whether the public should be able to see all surveillance footage from Club Q. Prosecutors and the defense both agree that some should be withheld, but DA Allen says withholding some video will protect both victims and the defendant. Allen said he thinks the trial could wrap up by the end of the year but maybe not until next year.

KELLY: Tell me more about just what you saw in court today. Because I understand some survivors of the shooting were there, also victims' family members.

WIBMLEY: Yes. That's right. There were a lot more people than the small courtroom could hold. So an overflow room was set up where people could watch a video feed. People were pretty quiet, and there was a real sense of solidarity in the room. Everyone was there to support one another and honor people who died. Aldrich, who was shackled and dressed in orange jail clothes, spent much of yesterday rocking back and forth and crying at the defense table. But family members and friends of victims we spoke with yesterday said they're not buying attempts to portray Aldrich as mentally ill, and they believe people at Club Q were targeted specifically because they're queer or nonbinary.

KELLY: All right. Thank you for your reporting.

WIBMLEY: Thanks for having me.

KELLY: That is Lacretia Wimbley of Colorado Public Radio. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Lacretia Wimbley