COLORADO SPRINGS — An El Paso County judge on Thursday unsealed a dropped 2021 criminal case against the Club Q mass shooting suspect in which the suspect allegedly threatened to become “the next mass killer.”
The 2021 case against Anderson Lee Aldrich, 22, was made secret last year after the charges were dropped and court filings have been kept sealed since, even though Aldrich now stands accused of carrying out a mass shooting at Club Q, an LGBTQ bar in Colorado Springs. Five people were killed and another 22 injured, 17 by gunfire.
District Court Judge Robin Chittum said the public’s interest in how law enforcement and prosecutors handled the 2021 case is “profound” and significantly outweighs Aldrich’s right to privacy.
“I look at the statute and I think that it is written for this type of scenario, where something huge comes out of the woodwork and demands scrutiny from the public,” she said.
Aldrich’s public defender, Joseph Archambault, objected multiple times to unsealing the case, and when Chittum ruled to open the file, he asked for a stay of her order so he could appeal directly to the Colorado Supreme Court. The judge denied that request and allowed the unsealing to go forward immediately.
“If this is unsealed, Mx. Aldrich will lose any hope for a fair trial in this jurisdiction,” Archambault said, emphasizing that the 2021 case involved only unproven allegations.
Aldrich’s mother and grandparents, the alleged victims in the case, also objected to the unsealing. Aldrich appeared in court for the hearing, sitting quietly.
The unsealed documents were not immediately available Thursday.
Despite the secrecy, court documents detailing the June 2021 incident have leaked through unofficial channels. In the records, law enforcement officials allege Aldrich threatened to blow up a home and become the “next mass killer.” Aldrich is non-binary and uses they/them pronouns, according to their attorneys in the Club Q case.
According to court documents, the June 18, 2021, incident began when Aldrich’s grandparents called a family meeting in their Colorado Springs living room about plans to sell their home and move to Florida. Aldrich was enraged, and said the move would interfere with Aldrich’s plans to store materials in the grandparents’ basement to “conduct a mass shooting and bombing.”
The grandparents told authorities Aldrich threatened to kill them and spoke of plans to “go out in a blaze.” They begged for their lives, and when Aldrich went to the basement, they ran out the door and called 911.
A short time later, Aldrich arrived at his mother’s home with a big black bag and indicated plans to make a last stand at her home. She fled, and Aldrich holed up in the mother’s home, threatening to blow up the place as a police SWAT team swarmed and deployed bomb-sniffing dogs. “Come on in boys, let’s (expletive) see it!” Aldrich yelled on the Facebook livestream. Aldrich later surrendered with hands up, in a short-sleeved shirt, shorts and bare feet.
During Thursday’s hearing, Archambault asked for a contempt of court citation against the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office in connection with the leaked court documents. The Associated Press relied on an anonymous law enforcement official to verify that the leaked documents obtained by KKTV were legitimate.
Archambault called the leak an attempt to “manipulate and hoodwink the court” into releasing the 2021 case.
“The court cannot allow law-breaking to occur and gain an advantage by breaking the law,” he said.
Chittum said she would take some time to review the motion for contempt of court and said she expected to set a hearing about the citation at a later date. Archambault said he was not seeking jail time or fines as a penalty for contempt, but rather other “appropriate remedies.”
The sheriff’s office did not immediately return a request for comment Thursday. A spokesman for Fourth Judicial District Attorney Michael Allen said he would address reporters during a 1:30 p.m. news conference.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Source: Orange County Register