Newly unsealed court documents have shed new light on the suspect in the killing of five people at an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs. The documents also reveal how much police investigators knew about the accused killer's background and alleged propensity for violence before the mass shooting.
As the case unfolds and moves through the courts, the interactions of the suspect with their family in the days and months prior to the Nov. 19 attack that killed five and wounded dozens of others will be a key component of the criminal proceedings. It's also an important element of the public's understanding of whether law enforcement could possibly have done things differently when they were first alerted to Anderson Aldrich by their family.
What we now know about the Colorado shooting suspect
Court documents show that on June 18, 2021, Aldrich’s grandmother, Pamela Pullen, told police that Aldrich had been working on creating a bomb in their basement.
But charges were ultimately dropped in the bomb threat case after family members who were threatened in the incident refused to cooperate, according to the district attorney and the court documents.
In a letter sent to the judge dated Nov. 29, 2021, Aldrich’s great uncle and great aunt, Robert Pullen and Jeanie Streltzoff, wrote that Aldrich had been troubled throughout their life despite Aldrich’s grandparents’ best efforts to raise and protect their grandchild.
The letter from Aldrich's relatives had more than a dozen bullet points describing Aldrich’s behavior, including Strelzhoff telling her husband she'd given Aldrich $30,000, “much of which went to his purchase of two 3D printers – on which he was making guns. One of which arrived at the house and was returned,” the uncle and aunt wrote. (Aldrich identifies as non-binary, according to court documents, but family members used he/him pronouns to describe them.)
The couple said in the 2021 letter that if Aldrich was released from custody at the time, Aldrich “would hurt or murder my brother and his wife.”
What happened before the Club Q shooting?
El Paso County District Attorney Michael Allen said his office prosecuted the case to the best of their ability but was ultimately forced to drop the charges after repeated attempts to subpoena members of Aldrich's family.
The case was originally set to go to trial in May 2022 and rescheduled two months later, but Allen's office was unable to serve subpoenas to the suspect's family. Allen stated his office asked for the case to be continued but the defense objected.
Allen said the defense told the court at the time, his office had made some "valiant efforts" to serve the family subpoenas for their testimony but there was "no likelihood these people were going to show up" because they have "basically been avoiding everyone."
The case was dismissed and later sealed on Aug. 11.
Why did the judge unseal the documents?
District Court Judge Robin Chittum ruled the documents would be released, finding the public's interest in the case "far outweighed" the right to privacy and concerns about tainting the pool of potential jurors for Aldrich. The judge said the public interest "is so great I would even call it profound."
The judge added that scrutiny of judicial cases is "foundational to our system of government. The only way for that scrutiny to occur is for this to be unsealed.”
The judge’s order to release the records comes after several news organizations, including USA TODAY, sought to have the documents unsealed.
What happened in the shooting at the Club Q nightclub?
Aldrich was charged Tuesday with 305 counts in the mass shooting at the LGBTQ nightclub, including murder, attempted murder, assault and hate crime charges, with additional violent crime specifications.
In an arrest affidavit released Wednesday evening, Detective J. Gasper stated that Aldrich entered Club Q on Nov. 19 shortly before midnight with an AR-platform rifle and a pistol, opening fire almost immediately after entering the clubs' main area.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Colorado shooting suspect threatened family, made guns at home