COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — More than 100 pages of court documents were released in connection with a 2021 criminal case against the Club Q suspected shooter on Thursday, and the Fourth Judicial District Attorney's Office explained the case did not see a trial due to lack of cooperation from witnesses.
The suspect, who is accused of killing five people and injuring at least 19 at the LGBTQ club in Colorado Springs on Nov. 19, was identified shortly after the attack as Anderson Lee Aldrich, 22. The suspect's defense attorney said on Nov. 22 that the suspect identifies as nonbinary and use they/them pronouns.
On Monday, the suspect was formally charged in connection to the Club Q shooting. The suspect faces 305 counts, including first-degree murder, assault and bias-motivated crimes. The five-page affidavit in this case was released Wednesday.
But more than a year before the mass shooting at Club Q, the suspect was arrested on allegations of making a bomb threat that led to the evacuation of about 10 homes. The case was dropped due to lack of cooperation from the family witnesses, said Fourth Judicial District Attorney Michael J. Allen.
Fourth Judicial District Judge Robin Chittum unsealed the 2021 bomb threat case on Thursday morning. The judge said, "the public interest in the case outweighed the privacy rights of (the) defendant," as reported by the Associated Press.
The judge ruled despite objections from the suspect’s attorney and mother.
READ MORE: All of Denver7's coverage on the Club Q shooting, the victims, and the recovery
Multiple news organizations, including Denver7, sought to unseal the 2021 documents.
During a press conference on Thursday afternoon, DA Allen explained that he wanted to provide truth to the community and nation about the 2021 case. He noted that everything stated in the press conference was discussed in open court or was included in documents typically available to the public.
Allen explained that on June 18, 2021, law enforcement responded to a 911 call from the suspect's grandmother. According to a probable cause statement, the grandmother made "concerning" statements about the incident. The suspect was eventually taken into custody and was arrested on several charges. The bond was set at $1 million. Formal charges, including three counts of first-degree kidnapping and two counts of menacing, were filed on June 29, 2021, Allen said.
With a search warrant, authorities seized multiple items from the home, including a "ghost gun" pistol — which had no serial number — and a rifle, Allen said. Both of those are still in the custody of the sheriff's office and were never returned to the suspect. The suspect's later request for their return was denied.
READ MORE: Club Q shooting suspect made threats against mother last year, landlord confirms
On Aug. 5, 2021, the suspect's bond was modified and the preliminary hearing, which was supposed to take place that day, was continued by the defense. The bond was lowered to $100,000 and a no-contact order for the suspect regarding their mother was lifted. The defendant and victims in the case addressed the court that day.
“The court also heard from his mother and his grandparents," Allen said. "His mother at that hearing described him as loving and passionate. His grandmother described him as a sweet young man and that he did not deserve to be in jail. The grandfather described him as unusually bright and someone who will take advantage of a second chance.”
On Jan. 27, 2022, the defendant entered a not guilty plea and the clock for a speedy trial began to tick. Prosecution had six months from then to get the case to trial.
The Aug. 5 comments from the suspect's family in court did not quite line up with their concerns written in the probable cause statement, Allen said. But to get the "concerning" statements into a courtroom, the witness must appear in front of a judge, take the witness stand and testify.
That proved problematic for both prosecutors and the defense, Allen said.
The defendant bonded out on Aug. 7 and both the prosecution and defense continued working to serve subpoenas on the victims in order to get them in the courtroom. The grandparents had moved out of state and both parties were working through the interstate subpoena process, which is lengthy, Allen said.
By July 5, 2022 — the date of the start of the jury trial — prosecutors said they had not been able to contact the witnesses and requested another continuance. The defense objected to this — the speedy trial was set to expire on July 26 — and requested that the case be dismissed. The defense also noted that the witnesses had been avoiding everyone, Allen said.
The court denied the continuance request and the case was dismissed.
“There is nothing wrong with the court’s decision in that reality. If witnesses cannot be produced at a trial and we are against speedy trial, it is very common for a court to dismiss a case," Allen explained.
The case was sealed on Aug. 11.
“I have prosecuted many cases in my time as a prosecutor where grandparents or family members have reported against a child or a young person in the family because they have concerns about safety," Allen said. "It is very common for people in that situation to have love for that person, to not want to testify against them, wanting to get them out of custody because they think they can handle it on their own.”
The district attorney's office brought in an independent, court-recognized expert on family recantation to speak to this common occurrence. The expert, Kristy Bootes, said recantations can include retracting a statement, minimizing it, or refusing to repeat it.
"Now, there’s many reasons why a crime victim may recant, but in my experience, the most common are love, fear and guilt," she said.
This includes believing the perpetrator will change, believing the perpetrator's promises, believing the violence will stop, feeling scared about future violence, and feeling responsible for the consequences the perpetrator is facing.
She said victim recantations in family violence cases are "incredibly common."
Allen said he is not able to say what led to the witnesses not cooperating — only that it led to the case's dismissal.
“But this office absolutely prosecuted it," he stressed. "We prosecuted it until we couldn't prosecute it any longer.”
Allen said that filing those felony charges meant that mandatory protection orders automatically went into effect, like a red flag order, and prevented the person from lawfully obtaining a firearm.
He said he knows from many years of experience that “a piece of paper in the form of a mandatory protection order, or even a civil protection order, will not stop someone who is intent on hurting someone.”
He continued, saying that filing federal charges against a person is more "resilient, long-lasting, and effective" than a red flag order. The case was pending for 383 days under the felony charges.
In the wake of the Club Q shooting on Nov. 19, the district attorney's office received many requests for the suspect's criminal record. The office's response was "no records exist."
Allen explained there was a reason for that. A Colorado revised statute restricts district attorneys from making public comments about sealed cases. The statute reads, "upon an inquiry into a sealed record, a criminal justice agency shall reply that a public criminal record does not exist with respect to the defendant who is the subject of the sealed record."
That was at play in Aldrich's 2021 case, Allen said.
“The legislature created this problem with the way this statute is written and it must be changed," he added.
When a crime is committed, the public should be able to learn about that person's prior cases, he said, even if they were dismissed. Multiple other district attorneys around the Denver metro area agree with this, he said.
On Nov. 21, the Monday after the shooting, his office filed a motion to unseal the 2021 case. The court ruled in his favor Thursday morning, which gave him the ability to speak on it, he said.
Court unseals affidavit from Club Q suspected shooter's 2021 case
The incident began when the defendant’s grandmother called 911 around 2 p.m. on June 18, 2021.
The defendant’s grandmother told the dispatcher the defendant was making a bomb in the basement. The suspected shooter allegedly told the grandmother “he was going to be the next mass killer” and that there was a collection of ammunition, firearms and bullet-proof body armor in the basement, the affidavit reads.
The alleged shooter “bragged about wanting to ‘go out in a blaze,’” according to court documents.
The grandmother said she and her husband had been “living in fear” due to the defendant’s “recent homicidal threats towards them and others,” according to the affidavit.
The grandparents sold their house and planned to move to Florida, which upset the defendant. The alleged shooter allegedly told their grandmother they couldn’t move yet because “it would interfere with his bomb making,” the court documents read.
On June 18, 2021, the grandparents asked the defendant to come to the living room for a family meeting about the move. The defendant allegedly came up from the basement with a Glock handgun and “began loading bullets into the magazine,” the affidavit states.
The accused allegedly pointed the gun at the grandparents and said, “You guys die today, and I’m taking you with me. I’m loaded and ready. You’re not calling anyone.” The suspected shooter snatched the phone from the grandmother’s hand and said they were not allowed to leave, court documents read.
The defendant reportedly told the grandparents they would be killed if they didn’t promise to cancel the Florida move. If they did move, it would allegedly interfere with the defendant’s plans to “conduct a mass shooting and bombing,” the affidavit states.
The defendant allegedly walked down to the basement, grabbed a box filled with chemicals and came back upstairs to the living room. The defendant said the box contained a bomb and that “it was powerful enough to blow up a police department and a federal building,” according to court documents.
The grandparents were held for a period of time until they promised to not move, the affidavit reads. The defendant then started chugging vodka and told the grandparents he needed it for “what he’s about to do.”
The alleged shooter said he was “in control,” then went back to the basement, according to the affidavit. That’s when the grandparents ran to the car and called 911.
The grandmother gave deputies the defendant’s mother’s address, which was located in the same area. She also told authorities that the alleged shooter drives a gold 2005 Toyota Highlander with Colorado license plates.
Deputies went to the mother’s house and located the defendant’s gold Highlander parked down the street.
Deputies contacted the defendant’s mother, Laura Voepel, by phone, and she was not cooperative, court documents state. Voepel allegedly did not want to answer any questions regarding the whereabouts of the defendant.
Around 3 p.m., Voepel sent a text to her landlord “advising the cops were after her son,” the affidavit states. The landlord asked where the defendant was, and Voepel responded that she and the defendant were inside the house. The mother then said “she needed to make sure the cops weren’t coming for her son,” according to court documents.
Around 4 p.m., the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office SWAT team started containment on Voepel’s home. The mother exited the home saying, “He let me go,” the affidavit reads.
Fifteen minutes later, the defendant contacted an EPCSO sergeant and confirmed they let their mother go. The defendant also said they see SWAT members around the house.
The defendant allegedly told the sergeant the SWAT team needed to “get back.” The accused allegedly said there was tannerite inside the home and “that he was going to start shooting through the walls,” according to the affidavit. The defendant then allegedly told the sergeant that “he was going to die today.”
At 4:30 p.m., the defendant told the SWAT team negotiator that they had a gas mask and armor-piercing rounds. They also said they are “ready to go to the end,” court documents read. The accused told the negotiator they were extremely agitated.
While negotiators were talking to the defendant at the mother’s house, the grandmother allowed deputies to search her basement. While the affidavit reads that items “consistent with bomb making materials” were found during that search, the Associated Press reported no fully functional explosives were in the home.
It culminated in a standoff that the then-21-year-old livestreamed on Facebook, showing the defendant in tactical gear inside the mother’s home and threatening officers outside — “If they breach, I’m a f----ing blow it to holy hell!” — before finally surrendering, the Associated Press reports.
While details are unclear, by 5:46 p.m., negotiators were able to get the defendant to walk out of Voepel’s home’s front door and surrender, according to the Associated Press.
Denver7 confirmed an AP report that the FBI received a tip about the suspect a day before they were arrested following this 2021 bomb threat.
A preliminary/proof evident hearing in the Club Q shooting case is scheduled for late February 2023.