About a year and a half before he was named a suspect in a Colorado Springs mass shooting, Anderson Lee Aldrich was arrested after making bomb threats, threatening to kill family members and, according to the court, discussing plans to become “the next mass killer.” Records unsealed Thursday.
The suspect in the Nov. 19 gay nightclub shooting in Colorado Springs, Colo. Aldrich, 22, was arrested in June 2021 on multiple counts of first-degree felony threats and kidnapping after making threats down a residential Colorado street Springs disrupted and led to a standoff with authorities, the unsealed records show.
But the case was dismissed in August 2022 because the victims — the suspect’s grandparents and mother — evaded subpoenas and failed to cooperate with authorities, Michael J. Allen, the district attorney for the Fourth Judicial Circuit, which includes Colorado Springs, said at a news conference on Thursday.
At a pretrial hearing in the months after the threats, the suspect’s family described Aldrich as “loving” and said they didn’t deserve to be in jail, prosecutors said.
According to prosecutors, the records were sealed at the suspect’s request.
Authorities have previously declined to discuss the 2021 case, citing Colorado state law that seals records when cases are dropped and prohibits officials from acknowledging that records exist.
Judge Robin Lynn Chittum of the Fourth Circuit, which includes Colorado Springs, ruled Thursday that the seal should be broken, saying the public interest in the case outweighs the suspect’s right to privacy. According to the Associated Pressthe judge said the scrutiny of court cases is “fundamental to our system of government.”
“The only way for this verification is to break the seal,” she said.
The Associated Press reported parts of the documents earlier this week before they were unsealed.
Allen said his office, as well as news outlets and the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office in Colorado, filed requests to have the case unsealed after the shooting.
Weapons and bomb-making materials seized during Fall 2021 were seized and held as evidence, Allen said. The suspect tried to reclaim the guns but was denied, he said.
The case has raised questions as to why Colorado’s “red flag” laws weren’t being applied in light of the threats Aldrich made in 2021. In a statement Thursday, El Paso County Sheriff Bill Elder said there was no need to seek a red flag order because Aldrich’s guns had already been seized upon arrest and the suspect was unable to purchase new ones. A protective order was in effect until July 2022, authorities said.
The sheriff also dismissed the idea that he could have asked for a red flag order after the case was dismissed in August. The bombing case is too old to argue there was danger in the near future, Elder said, and the evidence was sealed a month after the release and could not be used.
Lawyers for Aldrich said the suspect identified himself as non-binary and used she/them pronouns.
According to a June 2021 arrest affidavit from the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office, the incident began on June 18 at Aldrich’s grandparents’ home in Colorado Springs, after Aldrich became angry when the grandparents said they were selling the house and moving to Florida draw. Aldrich told grandparents Pamela and Jonathan Pullen not to move because it “would be disruptive [the suspect’s] plans to carry out a mass shooting and bombing,” the report said.
Aldrich had also described how he amassed “ammunition, firearms and bulletproof body armor” and stored it in his grandparents’ basement in order to become the “next mass murderer.” The account says the grandparents had lived in fear of Aldrich, who the grandmother believed made a bomb, and had talked about “wanting to burst into flames.”
Aldrich reportedly threatened to kill the grandparents if they didn’t promise not to move, pointing a loaded gun at them and saying, “You guys die today and I’m taking you guys with me. I’m loaded and ready,” the report said. The grandmother also said Aldrich once showed her a box of chemicals and claimed it was a bomb “powerful enough to blow up a police department and a federal building.”
The grandparents, who say they were being held hostage and begged for their lives, eventually escaped and called 911 after Aldrich, who was drinking vodka, retreated to the basement, according to the document. Video obtained from the Associated Press Shows Aldrich arrived at her mother’s house with a large black bag, where the suspect told her the police were nearby and “here I stand. Today I die.” The mother, Laura Voepel, was uncooperative with authorities, according to the report, and eventually left the home, saying Aldrich “let me go.”
SWAT teams and a bomb squad responded to the incident, and the AP reported that about 10 nearby homes were evacuated. A standoff ensued with authorities during which Aldrich, wearing a helmet and bulletproof vest, holed up inside the house, threatened to blow it up and yelled obscenities at authorities from inside, the report said. The suspect livestreamed the incident on Facebook. Doorbell security video obtained by AP shows the standoff ended with Aldrich exiting the house with his hands raised.
The report said authorities searched the grandmother’s home that evening and found “items consistent with bomb-making materials.” Weapons were also confiscated during searches of family homes.
Although Aldrich was arrested and jailed on felonies of threats and kidnapping, the case was dropped after a trial that lasted more than a year.
The document’s release comes days after Aldrich was indicted with 305 crimes, including murder and crimes motivated by prejudice, for the mass shooting in Colorado Springs last month that left five dead and at least 17 others wounded at Club Q, a nightclub at the heart of the LGBTQ community in this conservative city.
Police detailed the events of the shooting in an arrest affidavit released Wednesday. Authorities received a call at 11:56 p.m. on Nov. 19 from an active gunman at Club Q with numerous casualties inside and at least a dozen shots fired, the report said.
Surveillance video from the club shows the gunman arrived around 11:55 p.m. and parked his gold 2005 Toyota Highlander near the front entrance, police said. Pictures in the affidavit show the gunman exiting the vehicle and entering the club with an assault rifle, as well as shooting in the entrance. The gunman, who was wearing a bulletproof vest, began shooting at customers “indiscriminately” almost immediately after entering the nightclub, police said.
Richard Fierro, an Army veteran who was at Club Q with his family, described in an interview with police and later with the media how he and another patron, since identified as Thomas James, cut down and disarmed the gunman as the assailant walked onto the terrace where people had fled to safety. The shooter also had a pistol, Fierro said. The attacker was arrested around 12:02 a.m., the report said.
Initial calls to dispatchers indicated at least a dozen shots had been fired. Fierro told police he heard the shooter reload after the first round of firing and that he discarded a magazine from the attacker as he restrained him.
Police said a cartridge for an AR-15 rifle in the front passenger seat of the suspect’s car could be seen from outside the car’s window.
Aldrich sustained injuries during the altercation and was taken into custody at UCHealth Memorial Hospital Central in Colorado Springs. Authorities said they overheard Aldrich telling medical staff at the hospital they were “sorry” and “up for four days”.
The arrest affidavit also states that police questioned Voepel at her Colorado Springs home early Sunday morning. She told authorities that she and Aldrich planned to go to the movies at 10 p.m., but Aldrich left to run an errand they said would only take 15 minutes. Voepel did not see Aldrich leave but said they took her phone, the report said. Voepel told authorities she and Aldrich had no weapons other than Aldrich’s folding pocket knife.
The five people killed at the club have been identified as Daniel Aston, Derrick Rump, Kelly Loving, Ashley Paugh and Raymond Green Vance.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
https://www.latimes.com/world-nation/story/2022-12-08/colorado-springs-suspect-said-they-planned-to-be-the-next-mass-killer-during-previous-bombing-threat Colorado Springs suspect said they planned to be ‘the next mass killer’ during previous bombing threat