COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado — A judge on Thursday uncovered a bomb threat case against the Colorado gay bar shooting suspect who threatened to become the ‘next mass killer’ for a year before he allegedly killed five people and injured seventeen others in the LGBTQ Club Q enclave.
Judge Robin Chittum said the “profound” public interest in the case outweighed the privacy rights of defendant Anderson Lee Aldrich. The judge added that the review of court cases is “fundamental to our system of government”.
“The only way for this review to happen is for it to be unsealed,” she said.
Aldrich, 22, was arrested in June 2021 on allegations he made a bomb threat that led to the evacuation of around ten homes. Aldrich, who uses his pronouns and who is non-binary according to his lawyers, had threatened to harm his own family and boasted of having bomb-making equipment, ammunition and multiple weapons, according to court documents. law application. They were jailed on suspicion of felony, threat and kidnapping.
The case was later dropped and officials have so far declined to discuss what happened, citing a state law that requires dismissed cases to be sealed.
The judge’s order to release the documents comes after news outlets, including the Associated Press, sought to unseal the documents.
Aldrich’s alleged statements that they intended to become ‘the next mass killer’ predicted last month’s mass shooting and raised questions about why authorities failed to seize Aldrich’s weapons under Colorado’s “red flag” law.
Aldrich was also the subject of a tip received by the FBI a day before the bomb threat. Officers closed the case a few weeks later.
Under Colorado law, records are automatically sealed when a case is dropped and defendants are not prosecuted as happened in the Aldrich case in 2021. Once sealed, officials cannot recognize that the documents exist and the process of unsealing the documents initially takes place behind closed doors, with no case file to follow and with an anonymous judge.
“It’s one of the weirdest audiences I think I’ve ever had,” Chittum said. “I have a hearing on a case that neither of us should admit.”
It was unclear when the unsealed documents will be posted online. Chittum ruled over objections from the suspect’s attorney and mother.
Public defender Joseph Archambault argued that while the public has an interest in the case, Aldrich’s right to a fair trial was paramount.
“This will ensure that there is no presumption of innocence,” Archambault said.
Aldrich sat at the defense table, sometimes looking straight ahead or down, and seemed to show no reaction when their mother’s attorney asked that the case not be unsealed.
An attorney for Aldrich’s mother argued that unsealing the case would increase the likelihood that Laura Voepel would face harassment, intimidation or retaliation.
Aldrich’s attorneys told the judge the defense filed a contempt motion against the sheriff’s office over an AP article that detailed the contents of some of the sealed documents. The documents were obtained by Colorado Springs television station KKTV and verified as authentic by the AP by a law enforcement official who was not authorized to discuss the case sealed and kept anonymous. Judge Chittum did not rule on the motion, but said she would not let her delay her decision to unseal the case.
The Associated Press verified a copy of the sealed documents with a law enforcement official who described Aldrich telling frightened grandparents about guns and bomb-making equipment in their basement, swearing not to allow them to interfere in large-scale killing plans.
Aldrich then pointed a Glock handgun at the grandparents as they pleaded for their lives and said, “You die today…I’m loaded and ready.”
The documents say the grandparents fled the house while Aldrich walked away and called 911. Aldrich then locked himself in a nearby house where the mother lived while a SWAT team and a bomb squad stood outside with raised guns and bomb-sniffing dogs. At one point, Aldrich shouted that he would set off a bomb if law enforcement attempted to enter before finally surrendering.
The law enforcement official who confirmed the documents to the AP was not authorized to speak about them and so was granted anonymity.
Aldrich was formally charged Tuesday with 305 counts, including hate crimes and murder in the Nov. 19 shooting at Club Q, a sanctuary for the LGBTQ community in predominantly conservative Colorado Springs.
Investigators say Aldrich walked in just before midnight with an AR-15 type semi-automatic rifle and began firing during a drag queen’s birthday celebration. The killing was stopped when the patrons threw the suspect to the ground, beating Aldrich into submission, they said.
A murder conviction would carry the harshest sentence – likely life in prison – but prosecutors said they are also pursuing hate crime charges to show that crimes motivated by communal bias are not tolerated.
Associated Press writers Jesse Bedayn in Denver, Bernard Condon in New York and Matthew Brown in Billings, Montana contributed to this report. Bedayn is a member of the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places reporters in local newsrooms to report on underreported issues.