The FBI was aware of the accused Colorado Springs LGBTQ bar shooter the day before the suspect was arrested for making bomb threats against family members in June 2021, authorities have confirmed.
The 22-year-old who was charged with 305 counts in connection with the Nov. 19 mass killing, Anderson Lee Aldrich, was previously arrested on June 18, 2021, after threatening to kill family members at their home.
But the FBI was aware of Aldrich at least the day prior, and closed out its case just weeks later, the agency told USA TODAY. The Associated Press first reported on the FBI disclosure.
"The FBI received information on June 17, 2021 concerning Anderson Aldrich. As part of the assessment, the FBI coordinated with the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office, which arrested Aldrich on June 18, 2021. With state charges pending, the FBI closed its assessment on July 15, 2021," the FBI said in a statement.
Authorities have been criticized for failing to take more preventive measures before the Club Q shooting, such as confiscating weapons from Aldrich, arguing the previous threats were enough to warrant action.
Authorities responded to the family's home on June 18, 2021, after Aldrich, whose attorneys say is nonbinary and uses they/them/theirs pronouns, allegedly threatened their mother with a homemade bomb, forcing neighbors to evacuate amid crisis negotiations before surrendering. Aldrich was arrested for menacing and kidnapping, the AP reported.
Records from that arrest were sealed under a law meant to prevent unprosecuted arrests from ruining people's lives after prosecutors declined to pursue charges, but the AP reported it verified and viewed an arrest affidavit that included details foreshadowing Aldrich's future actions.
Media outlets, including USA TODAY, have asked for those records to be unsealed.
WHAT IS COLLATERAL RELIEF?: Colorado Springs suspect had criminal record wiped before shooting
Aldrich's grandparents called 911 that day, saying their grandchild was building a bomb in their basement and had threatened them. According to the sealed records, the AP reported, Aldrich told their grandparents they were planning to "conduct a mass shooting and bombing."
There have been several high-profile examples of the FBI having received information about a gunman before a mass shooting. A month before Nikolas Cruz killed 17 people at a Florida high school, the bureau received a warning that he had been talking about committing a mass shooting.
A man who massacred 49 people at an Orlando nightclub in 2016 and another who set off bombs in the streets of New York City the same year had each been looked at by federal agents but officials later determined they did not warrant continued law enforcement scrutiny.
FBI guidelines meant to balance national security with civil liberties protections impose restrictions on the steps agents may take during the assessment phase. Agents, for instance, may analyze information from government databases and open-source internet searches, and can conduct interviews during an assessment. But they cannot turn to more intrusive techniques, such as requesting a wiretap or internet communications, without higher levels of approval and a more solid basis to suspect a crime.
More than 10,000 assessments are opened each year. Many are closed within days or weeks when the FBI concludes there’s no criminal or national security threat, or basis for continued scrutiny. The system is meant to ensure that a person who has not broken the law does not remain under perpetual scrutiny on a mere hunch – and that the FBI can reserve its resources for true threats.
Aldrich was charged Tuesday with 305 counts, including for murder and hate crimes, after allegedly entering Club Q in November with an AR-15-style long rifle, killing five and injuring 17 others before being subdued by bar patrons, including army veteran Richard Fierro, who has been credited with tackling, bludgeoning and holding the suspect while waiting for police.
"Richard Fierro said he was able to get the handgun away from the suspect and began striking him anywhere he could on the suspect’s body to get the suspect to stop fighting," an affidavit released Wednesday reads.
The five-page arrest affidavit was made public Wednesday after Judge Michael McHenry ordered it to be unsealed. The document is a different filing than that which was filed after Aldrich's previous arrest pertaining to his grandparent's concerns.
In the Wednesday filing, responding officer Detective J. Gasper described the bloody scene at the club after the arrest was made, adding there were "medical intervention debris, and clothing items scattered directly outside of the club."
Photos taken from stills from surveillance video attached to the document show Aldrich exiting an SUV and carrying a rifle, and firing initial shots upon first entering the club.
Aldrich's mother, Laura Voepel, told investigators she and Aldrich did not own any weapons apart form a pocket knife, according to the affidavit. She said she had plans to see a movie with her child that night, but Aldrich left, saying they were going to run an "errand" that "would only take 15 minutes," and didn't hear from Aldrich after that.
Contributing: The Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: FBI knew of Colorado shooting suspect Aldrich day before 2021 arrest