A makeshift memorial near the Colorado Springs LGBTQ nightclub where five people were shot dead

Los Angeles (AFP) - A 23-year-old who shot and killed five people at an LGBTQ club in the US state of Colorado last year pleaded guilty on Monday and will spend the rest of their life in prison.

Anderson Lee Aldrich, who identifies as non-binary, was facing more than 300 criminal counts for the November 19, 2022 rampage in Colorado Springs.

Aldrich was charged with first-degree murder, attempted murder, carrying out bias-motivated crimes and other offenses.

The bearded and heavy-set Aldrich appeared in an El Paso County court on Monday and told Judge Michael McHenry they accepted the terms of the plea deal.

The murder charges carry a life sentence in prison without the possibility of parole.

“Like too many other people in our culture, you chose to find a power that day behind the trigger of a gun,” the judge was quoted as saying by ABC News.

“Your actions reflect the deepest malice of the human heart and malice is almost always born out of ignorance and fear,” McHenry said.

“The sentence of this court is the judgment of the people of the state of Colorado that such hate will not be tolerated and that the LGBTQ+ community is as much a part of the family of humanity as you are,” the judge said.

Aldrich was overpowered by patrons of Club Q in Colorado Springs after opening fire with an AR-15-style assault rifle, killing five people and injuring 18.

The shooting was the latest in a long history of attacks on LGBTQ venues in the United States, the deadliest of which claimed 49 lives at a nightclub in Orlando, Florida, in 2016.

With more firearms than inhabitants, the United States has the highest rate of gun deaths of any developed country – 49,000 in 2021, up from 45,000 the year before.