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Earlier case against Club Q suspect fell apart when witnesses refused to testify, prosecutor says


A judge dismissed a 2021 criminal case against Anderson Lee Aldrich, the suspect in the mass killing at a Colorado nightclub last month, after relatives who reported threats by Aldrich refused to cooperate, a prosecutor said Thursday.

Authorities seized two guns from Aldrich — a “ghost” pistol without a serial number and an AK-15 style semiautomatic weapon — and those weapons were never returned, District Attorney Michael J. Allen told reporters in Colorado Springs. The felony charges were pending for 383 days, during which time Aldrich was prohibited from acquiring firearms, Allen said.

But although relatives reported Aldrich to police for threatening to carry out a mass shooting and bombing, prosecutors were repeatedly unable to serve subpoenas to them, Allen said.

Allen said Thursday that at a court hearing in July, Aldrich’s defense attorney requested the case be dismissed and told the judge that prosecutors had made “some very valiant efforts” to serve subpoenas to witnesses, but that “there was no likelihood these people are going to be showing up.” The case was dismissed that day.

“We did everything we could have done in that case,” Allen said, adding: “We have to get the actual person on the stand.”

Allen spoke to reporters shortly after a judge unsealed the 2021 case, which raised questions about the effectiveness of Colorado’s “red flag” law and whether law enforcement officials fumbled an opportunity to prevent the shooting at Club Q. That law allows family members or authorities to request the temporary confiscation of guns from people who pose a threat to themselves or others.

Before the unsealing Thursday, authorities had refused to comment on the bomb threat case, citing state law that they said blocked them from doing so. Allen decried what he called a “false narrative” that, he said, unfairly blamed prosecutors for dropping the ball on the case and obscuring details about it. He said his office asked the judge to continue the case the day it was dismissed.

Absent testimony from Aldrich’s grandparents, who reported the 2021 threats, “I don’t see anything about that prior case that would have prevented the Club Q shooting,” Allen said.

The unsealed case was posted to a Colorado courts website by late afternoon Thursday. According to the arrest papers, Aldrich’s grandparents told law enforcement officials that Aldrich wanted “to be the next mass killer” and had weapons and bombmaking materials.

The documents said Aldrich held the grandparents at gunpoint and told them they couldn’t sell their home because “it would interfere with his plans to conduct a mass shooting and bombing.” The records say the grandparents fled the house and called 911, after which police arrested Aldrich on suspicion of felony menacing and kidnapping at the home of Aldrich’s mother.

Aldrich’s attorney objected on Thursday to the unsealing of the records, as did Aldrich’s mother, Laura Voepel. Voepel’s attorney argued it could subject her to harassment or retaliation. An attorney listed in one court document as representing Pamela Pullen, Aldrich’s grandmother, did not immediately respond to a request for confirmation that she was unwilling to testify. Aldrich’s defense attorney at the time also did not immediately respond to a request for more information.

Aldrich was formally charged this week with 305 counts of murder, attempted murder, assault, attempted assault and hate crimes in the Club Q shooting, which left five people dead and 17 injured. It remains unclear when and how Aldrich came to possess the guns used in the assault.

An arrest affidavit unsealed on Wednesday said Aldrich entered the club shortly before midnight in a ballistic vest and almost immediately began firing “indiscriminately,” before being stopped by patrons.

Hours later, Voepel told investigators that she and Aldrich had plans to go to a 10 p.m. movie that night, the affidavit says. Aldrich, however, left for an errand, saying it would take 15 minutes, but never returned. Voepel told the officials that the only weapon the pair owned was a pocket knife belonging to Aldrich, the report says.