The man suspected of opening fire at an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado’s second-largest city last weekend was arrested in an alleged bomb threat incident earlier last year, ABC News has learned. But authorities said it’s unclear whether the state’s red flag law could have prevented the mass shooting.
According to a press release posted online last year by the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office, deputies responded to a report of a bomb threat on Rubicon Drive in the Lorson Ranch neighborhood of Colorado Springs, just south of the city’s airport, in the afternoon of June. Feb. 18, 2021. A woman had called and said “her son threatened to harm her with a homemade bomb, multiple guns and ammunition,” the sheriff’s office said. She was not at home at the time and did not know where her son was.
Deputies were sent to the woman’s home and realized that the suspect – identified as then 21-year-old Anderson Lee Aldrich – was actually at another residence on Pilgrimage Road about a mile away. They contacted Aldrich by phone, and he “refused to comply with surrender orders,” according to the sheriff’s office.
A tactical support unit was called in and about 10 homes in the immediate area were evacuated, while an emergency alert was sent to the cellphones of residents within a quarter-mile radius, according to the sheriff’s office.
A crisis negotiating unit eventually succeeded in getting Aldrich to follow orders. He walked out the front door of the house and was taken into custody that evening, officials said. The regional explosives unit then evacuated both homes and found no explosives, the sheriff’s office said.
According to the sheriff’s office, Aldrich was incarcerated at the El Paso County Jail on two counts of threatening misdemeanor and three counts of first-degree kidnapping. Colorado Springs ABC affiliate KRDO reported on the incident at the time.
Aldrich, now 22, reportedly began firing a long gun as soon as he entered Club Q in Colorado Springs late Saturday night. According to the Colorado Springs police, at least five people were killed and 17 others were injured by the gunfire.
Police said “two heroes” confronted Aldrich and fought him, stopping him from shooting more people. Officers arrived on the scene and arrested Aldrich just after midnight, less than six minutes after the first 911 call came in, police said.
Aldrich was injured in the alleged incident and remains hospitalized. On Monday, he was held without bail on 10 “arrest alone” charges — five counts of first-degree murder and five counts of committing a bias-motivated crime that caused bodily harm, according to online court records for Colorado’s El Paso County. Michael Allen, Colorado’s fourth judicial district attorney, who serves El Paso and Teller counties, told reporters Monday that these charges are “provisional only” and could be changed once formal charges are filed.
The court sealed the warrant and supporting documentation related to Aldrich’s latest arrest. According to prosecutors’ motion, releasing the data could jeopardize the ongoing investigation.
Law enforcement officials briefed on the investigation confirmed to ABC News that Aldrich had previously been arrested in an alleged bomb threat incident in June 2021 after the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office was alerted that he was in possession of a homemade bomb.
Officials briefed on the investigation told ABC News that the gun Aldrich allegedly used in Saturday’s shooting was a legally purchased assault rifle and that his 2021 arrest may not have appeared on background checks because the case appears not to have been tried.
Homeowner from 2021 bomb scare incident speaks out
Colorado Springs resident Leslie Bowman told ABC News that she was renting a room from Aldrich’s mother, Laura Voepel, at the time of the June 2021 bomb threat incident. Bowman’s home on Pilgrimage Road was where police met Aldrich and his eventual arrest in collision occurred. place, she said.
According to Bowman, authorities initially went to Voepel’s mother’s home on Rubicon Drive before responding to Bowman’s residence on Pilgrimage Road.
“[Aldrich] apparently had an altercation 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 came to my house and Laura let him in. And I know he brought a gun.’
Bowman said Aldrich livestreamed a “shocking” video via his mother’s Facebook account from Bowman’s house while authorities were outside, showing himself with a gun and a helmet and a vest that resembled body armor. Security cameras at Bowman’s home also captured Aldrich entering the residence that day and surrendering to authorities hours later. ABC News has obtained the since-deleted Facebook Live video and the aforementioned footage from Bowman’s Ring doorbell camera.
“At the time I was told there were explosives involved. But I’ve since been told that may not have been the case,” she told ABC News. “I didn’t get any follow up from the police or the prosecutor or anyone on the case after the incident to testify or anything. I just didn’t get any follow ups and so I had very little information about what they were doing actually find it.”
Voepel lived there for a total of about 15 months, moving two days after the incident, according to Bowman.
Last month, on Oct. 18, El Paso County Sheriff’s deputies came to Bowman’s home to conduct a welfare check on Voepel, according to Bowman, who 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 she learned that the case against Aldrich had been dropped in court at an earlier date and that the records had been sealed.
“I just thought it was really weird,” she told ABC News. “But again, I was like, well, I haven’t heard from these people in over a year, nobody got hurt and [I’m] just get on with my life.”
When Aldrich was identified as the suspect in the nightclub shooting on Sunday morning, Bowman said she was “shocked and horrified.”
“It made me very upset and angry that this person who did what he did last year, clearly had violent intent, was let go 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 where Aldrich was aggressive towards her happened one night at her house when she was returning from a long road trip and Voepel complained to her about a problem with the bathroom.
“I was like, ‘Well, you know, it’s late, I’m exhausted. I’m going to have to deal with this tomorrow.’ And she and I kind of got caught up in it,” Bowman recalls. “Andy got in my face and because I was standing at her bedroom door, he told me to go out and slammed the door in my face.”
“I just attributed it to, you know, teenage boy, you know, trying to be aggressive and protect his mother,” she added. “I just let it go and after that there weren’t really any problems with him. You know, just that one kind of display of aggression and everything else was fine until the bomb threat.”
Motive ‘has the characteristics of a hate crime’, says the mayor
Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers told ABC News that the suspect “had considerable ammunition” and was “extremely well armed” when he allegedly walked into Club Q. While a motive is still under investigation, Suthers said “it has the hallmarks of a hate crime.”
“But we’ll have to see what the investigation shows in terms of, you know, social media and things like that to clarify exactly what the motive was,” the mayor said in an interview Monday.
Club Q co-owner Nic Grzecka told ABC News that Aldrich was an unknown in their established venue.
“He has never, to our knowledge, spent money on a credit card or ID that has ever been scanned in our company,” Grzecka said in an interview on Sunday. “I think this was a target for him.”
Authorities refuse to discuss the suspect’s criminal history
While the suspect may not have been known at the LGBTQ nightclub, which has been serving 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 rejected cases. Once dropped, the cases are sealed and authorities are prohibited from disclosing their existence, which is apparently why officials weren’t initially forthright about Aldrich’s earlier arrest.
ABC News and other news organizations have petitioned the Colorado court to open the documents related to Aldrich’s 2021 arrest.
At a press conference on Sunday morning, police declined to say whether Aldrich is the same person arrested in the bomb scare last year.
The Colorado state court system announced via Twitter on Sunday that “there are no public records available under the name of Anderson Lee Aldrich regarding this weekend’s shooting in Colorado Springs, or any other matter in Colorado.” A spokesman for the Colorado Springs district attorney’s office did not respond to questions from ABC News, other than a reference 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 that he had no recollection and 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 wouldn’t have a clue.”
Elder also told ABC News that he doesn’t know if more enforcement of Colorado’s red flag law in El Paso County would have made a difference in the Club Q shooting. The state’s red flag law, which went into effect in 2020, allows family members, household members, and law enforcement officials to ask a judge to order the seizure of a gun owner’s guns if that owner is believed to pose 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 owned guns following his June 2021 arrest, the mayor of Colorado Springs told ABC News that state law “prevents law enforcement from commenting on past criminal activity at this time.”
“But I think the district attorney will go to court today and we’ll be able to comment on past interactions with police pretty soon, hopefully in the next few days,” Suthers said in Monday’s interview.
Matt Gutman, Jenna Harrison, Julia Jacobo, Aaron Katersky, Jennifer Leong, Lisette Rodriguez, Kevin Shalvey, Jennifer Watts, and Robert Zepeda of ABC News contributed to this report.
Copyright © 2022 ABC News Internet Ventures.