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Colorado Springs suspect said they planned to be ‘the next mass killer’ during previous bombing threat

Anderson Lee Aldrich surrenders to police
In this image from video provided by Leslie Bowman, Anderson Lee Aldrich surrenders to police at a home where their mother, Laura Voepel, was renting a room in Colorado Springs, Colo., on June 18, 2021.
(Leslie Bowman via Associated Press)
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About a year and a half before being named the suspect in a mass shooting at an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs, Anderson Lee Aldrich was arrested after making bomb threats, threatening to kill family members and talking about becoming “the next mass killer,” according to court records unsealed Thursday.

Aldrich, 22, was arrested in June 2021 on several counts of felony menacing and first-degree kidnapping after making threats that disrupted a residential street in Colorado Springs, Colo., and led to a standoff with authorities, the unsealed records show.

But the case was dismissed more than a year later in August 2022 because the victims — the suspect’s grandparents and mother — dodged subpoenas and did not cooperate with authorities, leading the defense to argue Aldrich’s constitutional right to a speedy trial was at risk, Michael J. Allen, the district attorney for the Fourth Judicial District, which includes Colorado Springs, said at a news conference Thursday.

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At one pretrial hearing in the months following the threats, the suspect’s family described Aldrich as “loving” and said they did not deserve to be in jail, the prosecutor said.

Records were sealed at the request of the suspect, according to prosecutors.

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 any records exist.

Judge Robin Lynn Chittum of the Fourth Judicial District ruled the seal be lifted Thursday, saying public interest in the case outweighed the suspect’s right to privacy. According to the Associated Press, the judge said scrutiny of judicial cases is “foundational to our system of government.”

“The only way for that scrutiny to occur is for this to be unsealed,” she said.

The Associated Press had previously reported on portions of the documents earlier this week before they were unsealed.

Allen said that his office, as well as news agencies and the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office in Colorado, had filed motions to unseal the case after the Nov. 19 shooting.

Weapons and bomb-making materials confiscated during the 2021 case were seized and held as evidence, Allen said. The suspect attempted to reclaim the weapons but was denied, he said.

The case has raised questions on why Colorado’s “red flag” laws were not used, given the threats Aldrich made in 2021. In a statement Thursday, El Paso County Sheriff Bill Elder said there was no need to ask for a red-flag order because Aldrich’s weapons had already been seized as part of the arrest and the suspect couldn’t buy new ones. A protective order was in place through July 2022, authorities said.

The sheriff also rejected the idea that he could have asked for a red-flag order after the case was dismissed in August. The bombing case was too old to argue there was danger in the near future, Elder said, and the evidence was sealed a month after the dismissal and couldn’t be used.

Attorneys for Aldrich have said the suspect identifies as nonbinary and uses they/them pronouns.

According to a June 2021 arrest affidavit from the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office, the incident began June 18 at Aldrich’s grandparents’ home in Colorado Springs, after Aldrich became furious when the grandparents said they were selling the house and moving to Florida. Aldrich told the grandparents, Pamela and Jonathan Pullen, not to move, because it “would interfere with [the suspect’s] plans to conduct a mass shooting and bombing,” the report said.

Aldrich had also described amassing “ammunition, firearms and bullet-proof body armor” and storing it in the grandparents’ basement to become the “next mass killer.” The report states that the grandparents had been living in fear of Aldrich, whom the grandmother believed was building a bomb and had discussed “wanting to go out in a blaze.”

Aldrich allegedly threatened to kill the grandparents unless they promised not to move, and pointed a loaded gun at them, saying, “You guys die today and I’m taking you with me. I’m loaded and ready,” according to the report. The grandmother also said Aldrich showed her a box with chemicals in it, claiming it was a bomb “powerful enough to blow up a police department and a federal building.”

The grandparents, who said they were 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 by the Associated Press shows Aldrich arriving at their mother’s house tugging a big black bag, where the suspect told her that police were close by and “this is where I stand. Today I die.” The mother, Laura Voepel, was uncooperative with authorities, the report said, and eventually left the house, saying that Aldrich “let me go.”

Voepel declined to comment Thursday evening. The suspect’s grandparents could not be reached for comment.

SWAT teams and a bomb squad responded to the incident, and AP reported that about 10 nearby homes were evacuated. A standoff ensued, in which Aldrich, wearing a helmet and bulletproof vest, holed up in the home, threatened to blow it up and yelled profanities 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 walking out of the home, hands up in surrender.

The report states authorities searched the grandmother’s home that evening and “found items consistent with bomb making materials.” Weapons were also seized during the search of the family residences.

Though Aldrich was arrested and booked into jail, the case was dismissed after a legal process of more than a year.

The document’s release comes days after Aldrich was charged with 305 criminal counts, including murder and bias-motivated crimes, for the Colorado Springs mass shooting 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 town.

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 of an active shooter at Club Q with numerous victims inside and at least a dozen shots fired, the report said.

Surveillance video from the club shows the shooter arrived at around 11:55 p.m. and parked their gold 2005 Toyota Highlander near the front entrance, police said. Images in the affidavit show the shooter exiting the vehicle and entering the club with an assault rifle, as well as firing inside the entrance. The shooter, who was wearing a bulletproof vest, began firing “indiscriminately” at customers 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, who has since been identified as Thomas James, took down and disarmed the shooter as the assailant headed to the patio, where people had fled to safety. The shooter also had a handgun, Fierro said. The assailant was detained at approximately 12:02 a.m., the report said.

Initial calls to dispatchers indicated at least a dozen shots were fired. Fierro told police that he heard the shooter reload after the first round of gunfire and that he threw a magazine away from the attacker as he subdued him.

Police said a cartridge for an AR-15-style rifle on the 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 tell medical staff at the hospital that they were “sorry” and “had been awake for four days.”

The arrest affidavit also states that police interviewed Voepel at her Colorado Springs home early Sunday morning. She told authorities that she and Aldrich had plans to go to a movie at 10 p.m., but Aldrich left to run an errand that they said would take only 15 minutes. Voepel did not see Aldrich leave but said they took her phone, according to the report. Voepel told authorities she and Aldrich did not have any weapons aside from Aldrich’s folding pocketknife.

The five people who were killed in 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.


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