The district attorney and court documents unsealed on Thursday indicate that the charges against the suspect in the Colorado Springs gay nightclub massacre were dropped in a 2021 bomb threat case because family members who were traumatized in the incident refused to cooperate. Despite the discovery of a “tub” full of bomb-making ingredients and subsequent threats from other relatives that suspect Anderson Lee Aldrich was sure to damage or murder a set of grandparents if freed, the charges were dismissed.
Relatives portrayed a picture of a lonely, angry man who did not have a job and used $30,000 handed to him to buy 3D printers to build guns in a letter to state District Court Judge Robin Chittum last November. El Paso County District Attorney Michael Allen claimed that despite Aldrich’s requests, authorities did not restore the firearms that had been confiscated in the wake of the threat.
Aldrich allegedly vowed to kill the grandparents and become the “next mass killer” over a year before the nightclub attack that resulted in the deaths of five people, and Allen made these comments hours after Chittum unsealed the case.
Derailing the Earlier Case
Because the suspect’s mother and grandparents avoided service of a subpoena, the case against them collapsed, and the charges were dropped because of the potential threat to speedy trial standards, according to Allen. Aldrich’s mother and grandmother spoke at a hearing two months after the threat, calling him a “kind” and “lovely” young man who did not deserve to be punished, the prosecution said.
According to The Associated Press, Allen’s predecessor as district attorney said that he had seen many instances of witnesses evading service of subpoenas, but that the failure to serve Aldrich’s family stood out as unusual. Dan May said of the suspect’s family, “I don’t know that they were hiding, but if that was the case, shame on them.” An extreme case of apparent deception that led to a terrible outcome.
Public defender Joseph Archambault, who represents Aldrich, argued against releasing the documents, citing Aldrich’s right to a fair trial as a primary concern. Archambault argued that this would ensure that “no presumption of innocence” existed. In November 2021, the grandmother’s in-laws wrote to the court to argue that Alrich should remain behind bars because he posed an ongoing threat. According to the letter, Aldrich’s grandmother intervened when police wanted to keep him for 72 hours following an earlier visit to the home.
Robert Pullen and Jeanie Streltzoff wrote, “We feel that my brother, and his wife, would experience bodily damage or more if Anderson was released. In addition to being detained, we believe Anderson requires rehabilitation and counseling.” Grandparents “had to sleep in their bedroom with the door shut and a bat by the bed,” according to the family, because Aldrich had punched holes in the walls and smashed windows of their Colorado house.
Colorado shooting suspect's previous case dismissed for lack of witnesses, records show https://t.co/BSKO0IoJW5 pic.twitter.com/yHkwLVgnSA
— Reuters (@Reuters) December 9, 2022
Tumultuous Teenage Years in San Antonio
According to the letter, when Aldrich was a teenager living in San Antonio, he attacked the grandfather, resulting in the elderly man having to go to the hospital for treatment of injuries that were not specified. According to the letter, Aldrich’s grandfather lied to the police because he was afraid of the suspect. The letter also claims that Aldrich was homeschooled because he did not get along with his classmates.
The Associated Press (AP) and other news organizations had asked the judge to unseal the documents, and the judge granted their request two days after the AP published excerpts from the materials that had been verified with a law enforcement official. In June of 2021, Aldrich, then 22 years old, was arrested after he allegedly made a threat that forced the evacuation of roughly ten residences.
According to the papers, Aldrich revealed to his worried grandparents that he had access to weapons and bomb-making materials in their basement and swore not to let them get in the way of his intentions to become “the next mass killer” and “go out in a blaze.” Aldrich, who their lawyers say is nonbinary and uses they/them pronouns, barricaded themselves in their mother’s home during a standoff with SWAT teams and threatened to “go to the end” with armor-piercing rounds and weapons.
Authorities later searched the home and seized weapons, including handguns, hundreds of rounds of ammunition, body armor, magazines, a gas mask, and a tub filled with chemicals that make an explosive when combined. There had been previous contacts with law enforcement about Aldrich’s “escalating homicidal conduct,” according to a sheriff’s report, though the report did not provide any further details. A representative from the sheriff’s office did not immediately comment.
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Failed Attempts to Serve Subpoenas
Aldrich was hauled into jail on allegations of felony menacing and kidnapping after the grandparents called 911. A $1 million bond was initially issued for Aldrich, but his mother and grandparents successfully argued for a reduction to a $100,000 bond with conditions including counseling.
According to Allen, the prosecution withdrew the case after unsuccessfully attempting to serve the family members with subpoenas to testify against Aldrich. According to Allen, it was difficult to serve a subpoena on either grandparent because they had moved out of state.
Documents reveal that Pamela Pullen, the grandmother, claimed through legal representation that she had received a subpoena in the mail but that it had not been properly served upon her. Xavier Kraus, a former friend and neighbor of Aldrich, told AP, “At the end of the day, they weren’t going to testify against Andy.”
As Kraus explained, he had received texts from Aldrich’s mother claiming that she and the suspect were “hiding from somebody,” which turned out to be subpoenaed. Specifically, Aldrich “stated, ‘They got nothing. There’s no evidence,'” Kraus recalled. The El Paso County Sheriff’s Office stated that Aldrich was not allowed to possess weapons because he was the subject of a protective order that was in effect until July 5.
The allegations against Aldrich were dismissed, and Kraus claims that Aldrich immediately began bragging about the return of their weaponry, showing off two assault rifles, body armor, and incendiary bullets. As Kraus put it, Aldrich “was tremendously thrilled about it” and slept with a weapon under his blankets.
Questions Remain About Using Colorado’s Red Flag Laws
Following her grandson’s arrest in 2021, Aldrich’s relatives told investigators that the suspect’s grandmother had just given him $30,000. “Much of which went to his purchase of two 3D printers — on which he was constructing guns,” the documents read. Whether or not authorities may have used Colorado’s “red flag” law to seize weapons from Aldrich after his statements in the bomb investigation.
Sheriff Bill Elder of El Paso County, Colorado, said in a statement released Thursday that a red flag order was unnecessary because all of Aldrich’s firearms had been confiscated after the arrest and he was not allowed to purchase any more. After the lawsuit was dropped, the sheriff also denied he could have requested a red flag order. Elder stated that the bombing case was too old to use as an example of imminent risk and that the evidence had been sealed a month after the dismissal.
According to the sheriff, when the court dismissed the case, “there was no legal procedure” to seize the firearms. When a case is dropped and the defendant is not prosecuted, as happened in Aldrich’s 2021 case, the records are immediately sealed under Colorado law. Officials will deny there are sealed records if they are asked about them, and the earliest stages of the procedure to unseal them will take place in private, before an unidentified judge and without a docket.
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According to Chittum, Aldrich’s right to privacy was trumped by the “deep” public interest in the case. For the judge, a case review is “fundamental to our system of government.” While his mother’s attorney begged that the matter be kept under wraps, Aldrich sat at the defense table on Thursday and seemed unmoved.
On Tuesday, Aldrich was officially charged with 305 criminal charges, including hate crimes and murder, for the shooting that took place on November 19 at Club Q, a safe space for the LGBTQ community in conservative Colorado Springs. Aldrich allegedly attended the drag queen’s birthday party shortly before midnight and opened fire with a semiautomatic weapon similar to an AR-15. According to eyewitnesses, patrons interrupted the murder by pounding Aldrich to surrender after grappling the suspect to the ground.
Documents unsealed on Thursday by the district attorney and the court suggest that charges were dropped in a 2021 bomb threat case against the suspect in the Colorado Springs gay nightclub massacre because family members who were devastated in the tragedy refused to participate.
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