The suspect accused of killing five people in a mass shooting last year at a Colorado LGBTQ club ran a neo-Nazi website and used gay and racial slurs while playing games online, a police detective testified Wednesday.
Anderson Lee Aldrich, who identifies as non-binary and uses they/them pronouns, used racial slurs while gaming, posted a scope at a gay pride parade and used another slur when referring to someone who was gay, police detective from Colorado Springs Rebecca Joines testified the first day of a three-day hearing to determine if the evidence is strong enough to proceed with charges against the suspect.
Xavier Kraus, a former neighbor and friend of the suspect, told NBC News in an exclusive interview last year that an FBI agent asked him about two websites at a local FBI office in Colorado Springs.
One of the websites, a forum-like «free speech» site where people have anonymously posted racist and anti-Semitic memes, language and videos, was created by the suspect, Kraus told investigators.
Kraus, who, according to public records, lived a door away from Aldrich in a Colorado Springs apartment complex, said he told the FBI that Aldrich created the free-speech website in late spring or early summer. Kraus said Aldrich described the site as «a platform where people can go and post pretty much whatever they want.»
During the hearing, new details also emerged about the heroic actions of the two men credited with ending the November 19 attack on Club Q.
Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Thomas James grabbed the suspect’s rifle barrel after shots rang out in an attempt to «disarm the shooter,» blistering his hand because it was so hot, Detective Ashton Gardner said To the court.
«There is an initial fight over the rifle… that was used,» he said.
James told investigators that he had fallen to the ground with Aldrich, who pulled out a pistol and fired two shots. James was hit in the torso, Gardner told the courtroom.
He subdued the suspect, holding Aldrich for authorities along with decorated Army veteran Richard Fierro, 45, of Colorado Springs.
Eventually, other people reached out to help James and Fierro.
The suspect was arrested and charged with 323 criminal chargesincluding first degree murder, attempted first degree murder, first and second degree assault, and hate crimes.
Gardner also recounted stories shared with investigators by people who survived the attack. A woman was shot in the face by her as she tried to escape with her daughter, the detective said. Another woman was shot in the back by her as she ran, while others played dead hoping the shooter would get past them.
A man flipped a table over so he could take cover when shots rang out. The man and his wife were shot but survived.
Authorities said Aldrich entered the club and immediately began shooting with a semi-automatic rifle. Daniel Aston, Raymond Green Vance, Kelly Loving, Ashley Paugh and Derrick Rump were killed in the attack and 17 others were injured «by a gunshot wound,» police said.
The hearing will resume on Thursday. A video purporting to show the suspect opening fire at the scene is expected to play.
The club announced last week that it plans to rebuild and reopen in the fall with enhanced security measures and a permanent tribute to the deceased. Matthew Haynes, the founding owner of Club Q, said in a statement that he wanted to reassure people that they were «working very hard to get our home back.»
«We look forward to coming together as a community again,» he said.
Two of the victims were hired as staff and «will work in an administrative capacity, assisting management with rebuilding efforts, community relations and more,» the club’s management team said. The team said it plans to hire at least one more victim and distribute lost wages to former employees and contractors to fundraisers and a GoFundMe campaign.
jo yurcaba, ben collins, denis romero and Deon J. hampton contributed.