Did red flag laws in Colorado fail to stop the mass murder in Colorado Springs? Or did the failure start earlier — with an arrest and charges in 2021 that mysteriously went nowhere?
The Associated Press opts for the gun-control argument to frame its report today that Anderson Lee Aldrich “evaded” the red flag law in Colorado. However, the suspect didn’t evade anything, as it turns out that law enforcement and his family didn’t bother to employ it in the first place. And while they headline that claim about the red-flag law, their lead focuses on a much bigger failure:
A year and a half before he was arrested in the Colorado Springs gay nightclub shooting that left five people dead, Anderson Lee Aldrich allegedly threatened his mother with a homemade bomb, forcing neighbors in surrounding homes to evacuate while the bomb squad and crisis negotiators talked him into surrendering.
Yet despite that scare, there’s no public record that prosecutors moved forward with felony kidnapping and menacing charges against Aldrich, or that police or relatives tried to trigger Colorado’s “red flag” law that would have allowed authorities to seize the weapons and ammo the man’s mother says he had with him.
Gun control advocates say Aldrich’s June 2021 threat is an example of a red flag law ignored, with potentially deadly consequences. While it’s not clear the law could have prevented Saturday night’s attack — such gun seizures can be in effect for as little as 14 days and be extended by a judge in six-month increments — they say it could have at least slowed Aldrich and raised his profile with law enforcement.
Er … what? Aldrich had already raised his profile with law enforcement in 2021 with his arrest and booking on felony kidnapping and menacing charges. The question here isn’t why red-flag laws weren’t employed; it’s why Aldrich was on the street and apparently unmonitored after the June 2021 arrest.
And that is because the Colorado Springs DA declined to prosecute. The Washington Post all but confirms what the AP reports about the same person being involved in both incidents, and reports that no one seems to know why the earlier case was dropped:
Colorado Springs police would not comment officially on whether the suspected shooter was the same individual charged with multiple counts of kidnapping and felony menacing after the bomb-threat incident in southeastern Colorado Springs on June 18, 2021. But the man taken into custody at that time had the same name and age as the Club Q shooter. A federal law-enforcement official on Sunday confirmed that the Club Q gunman’s birth date matched that of the bomb-threat suspect.
The Colorado Springs district attorney’s office ultimately declined to bring formal charges in the wake of the 2021 bomb-threat incident, and the court records for the case were placed under seal, the Colorado Springs Gazette reported.
The link between the two incidents, if confirmed, is likely to raise questions over whether law-enforcement officials were aware of warning signs that might have resulted in legal action to bar the suspect from gaining access to weapons.
Not only do we need to know why the DA dropped the case, we need to know why the court sealed the records. The local Fox affiliate reported on the incident yesterday, which also involved a potential bomb threat:
Around 1:56 p.m. on Friday, deputies were called to the 9800 block of Rubicon Drive because of a bomb threat. The person who called EPSO said that her son had threatened to hurt her with a homemade bomb, multiple weapons, and ammunition. When she called, the person who made the report was not at home and didn’t know where her son was.
After arriving at the residence, deputies conducted additional research and determined that the suspect, identified as 21-year-old Anderson Lee Aldrich, was on the 6300 block of Pilgrimage Road (which is approximately 1 mile away from the address on Rubicon Drive). After being contacted by our deputies over the phone, the suspect refused to comply with their demands to turn himself in.
Around 4:15 in the afternoon, sheriff’s deputies began evacuating approximately ten residences in the neighborhood out of an abundance of caution.
Around 5:46 in the afternoon, the EPSO Crisis Negotiations Unit was successful in getting the suspect to comply with directives that were given to him. When he left the house through the front door, the police were waiting for him outside. After searching both residences, the Regional Explosives Unit came up empty-handed in their search for explosives.
Aldrich was booked into the El Paso County Jail on the following charges:
– 2 counts of Felony Menacing
– 3 counts of First-Degree Kidnapping
With those charges and this level of threat in play, one would expect the case to have come to trial. Perhaps the complainant refused to testify in the end, or maybe some other evidentiary deficiency arose. We’d know more if the case records weren’t sealed, which seems pretty odd anyway given that Aldrich was 21 years old at the time — not a juvenile.
DA Phil Weiser should be answering questions today. He just won re-election two weeks ago with 54.7% of the vote over a Republican challenger, so it’s not as if the Democrat is busy with campaign matters. Weiser appears to have a more moderate stance than other Democrat DAs elected over the last several years, which won him some plaudits and endorsements from the law enforcement community, so this does not appear to be a Gascón/Boudin type of ideological issue. But the strange way in which that earlier case was concluded demands answers, and right the hell now.
At the very least, everyone involved had a very clear indication that this person was potentially violent and a threat to others. Everyone involved had an opportunity to seek a red flag on Aldrich at the time. No one did. That is not a failure of the law or a success by the suspect in “evading” it, but a failure of everyone to use the laws at their disposal to deal with a violent threat in their community before he killed people.