By COLLEEN SLEVIN Associated Press
DENVER (AP) — The person charged with fatally shooting five people and wounding 17 others at a gay nightclub in Colorado Springs last year was at the venue for more than an hour earlier that night before returning to carry out the mass shooting, according to information disclosed Friday during a procedural court hearing.
Authorities have previously only said that Anderson Lee Aldrich was seen pulling into a parking lot at Club Q just before midnight on Nov. 19, 2022, where they entered and immediately opened fire.
The new timeline was revealed in passing during the hearing by a defense attorney hoping to get an evidentiary hearing scheduled for later this month delayed, but he did not elaborate.
Defense attorney Joseph Archambault argued that the hearing should be delayed until they can see all the security footage from inside the club that night to determine if, for instance, Aldrich was involved in any arguments or conversations with others or had been drinking. That information, he contended, could provide key evidence about whether the crime was premeditated or motivated by bias.
Aldrich, who is nonbinary and uses they/them pronouns, is charged with hate crimes as well as murder and attempted murder. Someone who is nonbinary can be charged with a hate crime for targeting peers, because hate crime laws are focused on the victims, not the perpetrator. However, prosecutors must prove what motivated a defendant, a higher standard than what is usually required in court.
Prosecutors and the judge did not dispute the timeline, but what happened during that period earlier that night was not discussed directly, including what time Aldrich was there. There was also a reference to Aldrich being at the club on other occasions in 2021 and 2022, but those visits were not discussed.
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Archambault wanted to delay a three-day hearing starting Feb. 22 to determine if Aldrich will stand trial in the case partly because there is no audio yet available for surveillance video showing them in the club before, which may have captured statements they or others made.
Archambault did not return a call seeking more details. His office has a policy of not speaking with reporters.
Chief Deputy District Attorney Reginald Short explained that technical problems had led to a delay of matching up audio with video by forensic video experts. He said he did not think any audio that is joined with the relevant video portions would likely do much to shed light on Aldrich’s state of mind because it would be difficult to hear people talking. The surveillance video that does have audio has lots of disco music and other loud background noise, with people shouting over the din to order drinks at the bar, he said.
Short also argued that the upcoming preliminary hearing to determine if there is enough evidence for Aldrich to stand trial only requires prosecutors to show probable cause that Aldrich committed the crimes, with the evidence viewed in the prosecution’s favor at this stage of the proceedings.
“This is not a whodunit,” he said.
Matthew Haynes, Club Q’s co-owner, declined to comment on the disclosure and said he wants to remain focused on rebuilding the venue.
Judge Michael McHenry denied the defense’s request to delay the hearing, noting that not all the evidence must be presented, because the preliminary hearing is not a “mini trial.” However, he said that if new information comes to light after the hearing he would be open to considering whether that would be enough to consider releasing Aldrich on bond while the case proceeds.
Associated Press/Report for America journalist Jesse Bedayn contributed to this report. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.