Colorado shooting suspect bought gun despite 2021 bomb threat arrest
The man suspected of opening fire at an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado’s second-largest city over the weekend was previously arrested last year in an alleged bomb threat incident, ABC has learned News. But authorities said it was unclear whether the state’s red flag law could have prevented the mass shootings.
According to a press release posted online last year by the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office, deputies responded to a bomb threat report on Rubicon Drive in the Lorson Ranch neighborhood of Colorado Springs, just south of the city airport in the afternoon of June. Dec. 18, 2021. A woman had called, saying “her son was threatening to harm her with a pipe bomb, multiple weapons and ammunition,” the sheriff’s office said. She was not home at the time and did not know where her son was.
Deputies were dispatched to the woman’s home and realized the suspect – identified as Anderson Lee Aldrich, then 21 – was actually at another residence on Pilgrimage Road, about a mile away. They contacted Aldrich by phone and he “refused to comply with orders to surrender,” the sheriff’s office said.
A tactical support unit was called and about 10 homes in the immediate area were evacuated, while an emergency notification was sent to cellphones of residents within a quarter-mile radius, according to the office of the sheriff.
A crisis bargaining unit was eventually successful in getting Aldrich to comply with orders. He walked through the front door of the home and was taken into custody that evening, officials said. The regional explosives unit then cleared both residences and found no explosive devices, the sheriff’s office said.
Aldrich was incarcerated in the El Paso County Jail on two counts of threatening felony and three counts of first-degree kidnapping, according to the sheriff’s office. Colorado Springs ABC affiliate KRDO reported the incident at the time.
Aldrich, now 22, reportedly started firing a long gun as soon as he walked into Club Q in Colorado Springs late Saturday night. At least five people were killed and 17 others were injured by the gunfire, according to the Colorado Springs Police Department.
Police said “two heroes” confronted Aldrich and fought with him, preventing him from shooting more people. Officers responded to the scene and arrested Aldrich just after midnight, less than six minutes after the first 911 call, police said.
Aldrich was injured in the alleged incident and remains hospitalized. On Monday, he was being held without bond on 10 ‘arrest only’ counts – five counts of first-degree murder and five counts of committing a bias-motivated felony causing bodily harm, according to court records in El Paso County line in Colorado. . Colorado’s Fourth Judicial District Attorney Michael Allen, who serves El Paso and Teller counties, told reporters Monday that those charges “are only preliminary” and subject to change once the formal charges are filed.
The court has sealed the arrest warrant and supporting documents related to Aldrich’s latest arrest. According to the prosecutors’ request, if the files were “released, it could compromise the ongoing investigation”.
Law enforcement officers briefed on the investigation confirmed to ABC News that Aldrich was previously arrested in an alleged bomb threat incident in June 2021, after the El County Sheriff’s Office Paso was alerted that he was in possession of a pipe bomb.
Officials briefed on the investigation told ABC News that the weapon Aldrich allegedly used in Saturday’s shooting was a legally purchased assault rifle and that his 2021 arrest may not have figured during the shooting. background check, as the case does not appear to have gone to trial.
The owner of a 2021 bomb threat speaks out
Colorado Springs resident Leslie Bowman told ABC News she was renting a room from Aldrich’s mother, Laura Voepel, at the time of the June 2021 bomb threat incident. she.
Authorities first went to Voepel’s mother’s home on Rubicon Drive before responding to Bowman’s residence on Pilgrimage Road, according to Bowman.
“[Aldrich] apparently had a run-in with his grandparents and threatened them with a gun,” Bowman told ABC News by phone Sunday. “He left their house, which was less than five minutes from my house, … and is came to my house and Laura let him in. And I know he brought a gun.
Bowman said Aldrich live-streamed a “shocking” video via his mother’s Facebook account from inside Bowman’s home while authorities were outside, showing himself with a gun as well as a helmet and a vest that looked like a bulletproof vest. Security cameras at Bowman’s home also captured Aldrich entering the residence that day and turning himself in to authorities hours later. ABC News has obtained the since-deleted Facebook Live video as well as the aforementioned footage from Bowman’s Ring doorbell camera.
“I was told at the time that there were explosives involved. But I’ve also been told since that there might not be,” she told ABC. News. “I had no follow-up from the police or the prosecutor or anyone about the case after the incident to testify or anything. I just didn’t had no follow-up so I had very little information on what they really found.
Voepel lived there for about 15 months in total and moved out two days after the incident, according to Bowman.
Last month, on Oct. 18, El Paso County sheriff’s deputies showed up at Bowman’s home to perform a checkup on Voepel, Bowman said. Bowman said she had not heard from Voepel or Aldrich since the alleged bomb threat incident last year.
After reading a local news report, Bowman said he learned that the case against Aldrich was dropped in court at an earlier date and the records were sealed.
“I just thought it was really weird,” Bowman said. “But again, I was like, well, I haven’t heard from these people in over a year, no one has been hurt and [I’m] I’m just going to get on with my life.”
Sunday morning, when Aldrich was identified as the suspect in the nightclub shooting, Bowman said she was “shocked and horrified.”
“It shocked and angered me that this person who did what he did last year, obviously had violent intentions, was released and now five people are dead,” she told ABC News. “I think there are a lot of questions that need to be answered.”
Bowman said the only other incident involving Aldrich’s aggression towards her occurred at her house one night when she was returning from a long car trip and Voepel had complained of a problem with the bathroom.
“I was like, ‘Well, you know, it’s late, I’m exhausted. I’ll have to deal with this tomorrow.’ And her and I kinda got into it,” Bowman recalled. “Andy confronted me and as I was standing in his bedroom door he told me to get out and slammed the door in my face.”
“I just put it down to, you know, a teenager, you know, trying to be aggressive and protect his mom,” she added. “I just let it go and there weren’t really any issues with him after that. You know, just this sort of aggressiveness and everything else was fine until the bomb threat situation. “
Motive ‘has the trappings of a hate crime,’ mayor says
Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers told ABC News the suspect “had considerable ammunition” and “was extremely well armed” when he allegedly entered Club Q. an investigation, Suthers said “he has the outward signs of a hate crime.” .”
“But we’re going to have to see what the investigation shows in terms of, you know, social media and things like that to be clear about what exactly the motive was,” the mayor said in an interview Monday.
Club Q co-owner Nic Grzecka told ABC News that Aldrich was a stranger to their long-established locale.
“He has never spent money on a credit card or scanned ID at our company that we know of,” Grzecka said in an interview Sunday. “I think it was a target community for him.”
Authorities refuse to discuss suspect’s criminal history
Although the suspect may not have been known to the LGBTQ nightclub, which has served the Colorado Springs community for two decades, Aldrich was clearly known to local law enforcement. However, Colorado has very strict privacy laws when it comes to cases that have been dismissed. Once dismissed, the cases are sealed and authorities are prohibited from mentioning their existence, which apparently explains why officials were initially not open about Aldrich’s earlier arrest.
ABC News and other news outlets have asked the Colorado court to unseal records relating to Aldrich’s 2021 arrest.
At a Sunday morning news conference, police declined to say whether Aldrich was the same person arrested in the bomb threat incident last year.
The Colorado State Court System announced via Twitter Sunday that “there are no public records available under the name of Anderson Lee Aldrich related to this weekend’s shooting in Colorado Springs, or any other case in Colorado.” A spokesperson for the Colorado Springs District Attorney’s Office did not respond to questions from ABC News other than referring to the tweet from the state court system.
When given details of Aldrich’s previous arrest, El Paso County Sheriff Bill Elder told ABC News he could not recall and had no information about the June 2021 incident.
“I have 900 employees, so, you know, 550 sworn [deputies] — it’s the largest county in Colorado,” Elder said by phone Sunday. “I would have no idea.”
Elder also told ABC News that he’s not sure if greater enforcement of Colorado’s Red Flag law in El Paso County would have made a difference in the shooting at Club Q. The Flag Law state red, which went into effect in 2020, allows relatives, household members and law enforcement to ask a judge to order the seizure of a gun owner’s weapons if that owner is considered a risk to themselves or others.
“I don’t know anything specific about the shooter, so I don’t know if it would have mattered or not,” Elder said.
When asked if Aldrich should have been allowed to possess weapons after his June 2021 arrest, the Colorado Springs mayor told ABC News that state law “prevents law enforcement from doing this. stage to comment on any previous criminal activity”.
“But I think the district attorney will be going to court today and we can comment on any prior interactions with the police fairly quickly, hopefully in the next few days,” Suthers said during the Monday interview.
Matt Gutman, Jenna Harrison, Julia Jacobo, Aaron Katersky, Jennifer Leong, Lisette Rodriguez, Kevin Shalvey, Jennifer Watts and ABC News’ Robert Zepeda contributed to this report.