By Amir Vera, Jeremy Harlan, Amanda Musa and Rebekah Riess, CNN
An unsealed case file revealed new details about what took place during a 2021 bomb threat incident that led to the arrest of the Club Q shooting suspect.
Fourth Judicial District Court Judge Robin Chittum ordered the unsealing of the case file Thursday, ruling in part that the public interest outweighs the defendant’s privacy despite the objections of the 22-year-old shooting suspect, Anderson Aldrich, and their mother, Laurel Voepel.
The unsealed documents include a detailed arrest affidavit describing the incident that occurred on June 18, 2021, when the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office (EPSO) responded to calls from Aldrich’s grandmother, Pamela Pullen, about a bomb threat at Aldrich’s mother’s home.
Pullen told dispatchers that Aldrich was upset about the recent sale of her house and plans to move to Florida with her husband.
“You guys die today, and I’m taking you with me. I’m loaded and ready. You’re not calling anyone,” Aldrich reportedly told their grandparents while drinking from a bottle of vodka as they held a handgun and loaded the magazine, according to the affidavit.
Pullen also reportedly told officials that Aldrich told her if they moved to Florida “it would interfere with his plans to conduct a mass shooting and bombing,” the affidavit said.
Aldrich told officials that responded to the scene that they had an explosive called Tannerite inside the house and said they would start shooting through the walls, the affidavit said.
“Anderson told the SWAT team negotiator that he has a gas mask, armor piercing rounds and is ready to go to the end,” the affidavit said.
Aldrich was ultimately arrested following the incident, but Chittum dropped all charges against them on July 5, 2022.
The unsealed documents also show a seven-count indictment signed by Colorado’s Fourth Judicial District Attorney Michael Allen against Aldrich on charges of kidnapping, menacing and crimes of violence as well as a protection order against Aldrich on behalf of their mother, grandmother, and grandfather.
A judge’s order to jail Aldrich on $1 million bond is also referenced in the collection of unsealed documents.
Aldrich was formally charged this week in connection with the November shooting at an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs, Colorado. They were charged with with 305 counts, including charges of first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder, assault and bias-motivated crimes causing bodily injury. The shooting left five people dead and 19 others injured.
Aldrich — whose attorneys say identifies as nonbinary and uses they/them pronouns — faces up to life in prison without parole if convicted on the first-degree murder charges.
Suspects relatives refused to testify, DA says
Aldrich was in the courtroom for Thursday’s hearing, with Voepel appearing via WebEx to oppose the unsealing of the file. Chittum made her ruling after hearing arguments from Aldrich’s public defender and an attorney representing Voepel.
Chittum said the new allegations involving the Club Q shooting case are enough to raise the importance of the public interest in the earlier case. The rights of the public to scrutinize the actions of law enforcement and the district attorney’s office are significant, according to the judge.
“As the judge made clear, the public interest in the new allegations against Aldrich is so profound she had to order the unsealing of the bomb threat case and allow journalists and the public to scrutinize how law enforcement and prosecutors did their job,” said Jeff Roberts, one of the petitioners and executive director of the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition.
“There are so many important questions about the 2021 case that need answers, in particular why the alleged threats weren’t deemed serious enough to invoke Colorado’s red flag law and why the case was dismissed. Could law enforcement and prosecutors have prevented the attack on Club Q if they had acted differently?”
Allen, the district attorney, said Thursday the main hurdle for prosecutors was Aldrich’s family’s unwillingness to testify against them in court. Their mother and grandparents refused to appear in court and testify against them. Despite initial statements made by Aldrich’s grandmother being described as “concerning,” without their family’s testimony, Allen said “none of those statements would be admissible in a criminal courtroom.”
The judge ultimately dismissed the case against Aldrich after prosecutors requested a continuance while Aldrich’s attorney argued the window for a speedy trial was about to close in three weeks, said Allen.
“Whatever led to the victims not cooperating in that … case, I can’t tell you,” Allen said. “I can only tell you that they didn’t cooperate, and it led to the dismissal of that case. But this office absolutely prosecuted it. We prosecuted it until we couldn’t prosecute it any longer, and it would not have prevented the Club Q shooting.”
The El Paso County Sheriff’s Department released a statement Thursday explaining its interaction with Aldrich during the June 2021 incident, and why the department chose not to initiate an Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO) under Colorado’s “red flag” law that would have seized Aldrich’s guns and prevented them from purchasing or handling a gun for one year.
“There was never a point in time [El Paso County Sheriff’s Office] needed to file for an ERPO because the [Mandatory Protection Order] that was granted in accordance with CRS 18-1-1001 following Aldrich being charged was to remain in place until the case reached a final disposition, regardless of whether or not Aldrich was in our physical custody or out on bond,” the department’s statement read.
In its statement, the department stated it did not believe an ERPO was needed after the case was dismissed because it still had possession of the weapons seized after the June 2021 incident.
Video shows Aldrich surrendering to law enforcement
Video obtained by CNN last month showed Aldrich surrendering to law enforcement last year after allegedly making a bomb threat. Footage from the Ring door camera of the owner of the home showed Aldrich exiting the house with hands up and barefoot, and walking to sheriff’s deputies.
Sheriff’s deputies responded to a report by Voepel that Aldrich was “threatening to cause harm to her with a homemade bomb, multiple weapons, and ammunition,” according to a June 2021 news release from the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office. Deputies called the suspect, and he “refused to comply with orders to surrender,” according to the sheriff’s office. Nearby homes were evacuated.
In video obtained by CNN, Aldrich appeared to rant about the police and challenged them to breach the house where he was holed up.
“I’ve got the f**king sh*theads outside, look at that, they’ve got a bead on me,” Aldrich said on the video, pointing the camera at a window with blinds covering it. “You see that right there? F**king sh*theads got their f**king rifles out.”
“If they breach, I’mma f**king blow it to holy hell,” Aldrich added, as he walked in and out of a bedroom.
Aldrich ended the video with what seemed like a message to law enforcement outside: “So, uh, go ahead and come on in, boys! Let’s f**king see it!”
The video did not actually show any officers outside the house and it’s not clear from the video whether Aldrich had any weapons in the house.
Several hours after the initial police call, the sheriff’s crisis negotiations unit was able to get Aldrich to leave the house, and Aldrich was arrested after walking out the front door, which was seen in other video footage previously reported by CNN. Authorities did not find any explosives in the home.
Leslie Bowman, who owns the house where Aldrich’s mother lived, provided CNN with the videos. Aldrich’s mother rented a room in the house for a little over a year, Bowman said, and Aldrich would visit his mother there.
Aldrich’s arrest in connection to the bomb threat would not have shown up in background checks, according to the law enforcement sources who said records indicate he purchased the weapons, because the case was never adjudicated, the charges were dropped and the records were sealed. It’s unclear what prompted the sealing of the records.
Aldrich also called the Colorado Springs Gazette in an attempt to get an earlier story about the 2021 incident removed from the website, the newspaper reported. “There is absolutely nothing there, the case was dropped, and I’m asking you either remove or update the story,” Aldrich said in a voice message, according to the Gazette.
The suspect allegedly entered Club Q late November 19 with an AR-style weapon and a handgun and opened fire, killing Daniel Aston, Raymond Green Vance, Kelly Loving, Ashley Paugh and Derrick Rump. At least 19 others were injured, police have said, most of whom suffered gunshot wounds.
Aldrich was taken in police custody after people in the club fought and subdued them, according to police.
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CNN’s Ray Sanchez contributed to this report.