By Keith Coffman
DENVER (Reuters) – The suspect in a mass shooting that killed five people and injured 17 at an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs appeared at a court hearing on Wednesday with apparent facial injuries, muttering her name while slumping sideways in a wheelchair .
The first hearing, conducted via video link from prison, was the public’s first look at Anderson Lee Aldrich since the shooting and caning of the suspect by clubgoers late Saturday night and early Sunday morning.
Defense attorneys for the Colorado State Public Defender said in court filings Tuesday that Aldrich identifies as non-binary and prefers she/them pronouns.
Aldrich, 22, had been in a hospital from early Sunday morning until Tuesday before being transferred to the El Paso County Jail in Colorado Springs. The defendant was handcuffed during the hearing and wore a prison uniform.
El Paso County Judge Charlotte Ankeny ordered Aldrich held without bail.
Although officials did not describe the injuries in detail, the suspected gunman was beaten and pistol whipped by Richard Fierro, a decorated former war veteran from Iraq and Afghanistan, successfully preventing further bloodshed at Club Q in Colorado’s second largest city. At least two other people were also involved in kicking and overpowering the suspect.
When Judge Ankeny asked the defendant for a name, Aldrich gave a barely understandable answer after a pause. Aldrich also answered “yes” and “no” to two procedural questions.
Defense attorneys declined to comment after the hearing.
Police initially held Aldrich on arrest charges of first-degree murder on five counts and felony crimes stemming from Saturday night’s killings.
El Paso District Attorney Michael Allen said after the hearing that he expects to file a formal criminal complaint at the defendant’s next hearing, which is scheduled for December 6.
Meanwhile, Allen said his office will continue to ask that Aldrich be held without bail and that Aldrich’s non-binary identity does not affect how he would pursue the case, including whether to face hate crime charges.
“I’m looking at evidence, evidence of what happened here. That’s what we look for when making filing decisions,” Allen told reporters.
The prosecutor also said Aldrich was physically able to attend the hearing despite the injuries.
The five who died are Kelly Loving, 40, Daniel Aston, 28, Derrick Rump, 38, Ashley Paugh, 34, and Raymond Green Vance, 22.
(Reporting by Keith Coffman, Andrew Hay, and Caitlin Webber; Writing by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Richard Chang and Rosalba O’Brien)