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Red Flags

Club Q shooting suspect was apparently arrested after 2021 bomb threat, not prosecuted, case is sealed

The 22-year-old man accused of murdering five people and wounding more than a dozen others at the Club Q night club in Colorado Springs, Colorado, late Saturday was reportedly arrested in June 2021 after threatening his mother with a homemade bomb and other weapons. The local district attorney's office said the Club Q shooting investigation will include a review of the 2021 case.

An El Paso County Sheriff's Department press release about the 2021 incident said the suspect in that case — whose name, Anderson Lee Aldrich, plus date of birth and address at the time match the alleged Club Q shooter — was arrested on two counts of felony menacing and three counts of first-degree kidnapping.

The district attorney's office told The Colorado Springs Gazette that no formal charges were pursued in that case and the records have been sealed for unspecified reasons. Aldrich called up an editor at the Gazette in August and said "the case was dropped, and I'm asking you either remove or update the story."

Local officials told The Associated Press that the suspect used an AR-15-style semiautomatic rifle in the attack, and the assault ended when a patron at the LGBTQ club grabbed the shooter's other firearm, a handgun, and hit him with it, then pinned him on the ground until police arrived.

Aldrich's mother, Laura Voepel — reportedly the daughter of California Republican state Assemblyman Randy Voepel — told police her son had "multiple weapons and ammunition" during the 2021 bomb scare. Under Colorado's 2019 "red flag" law, police or a relative could have asked a judge to confiscate Aldrich's weapons for six-month periods after that arrest. There is no sign anyone attempted such an intervention. 

"This seems like a no brainer, if the mom knew he had guns," Duke University sociologist Jeffrey Swanson, an expert in red flag laws, tells AP. "If you removed firearms from the situation, you could have had a different ending to the story."

Leslie Bowman, who rented a room to Voepel during the 2021 bomb threat, agreed. Bowman had Voepel move out soon after the bomb threat and hadn't heard from mother or son since, though police arrived at her house on Oct. 18 for a "wellness check" on Voepel, she told The New York Times. "I'm a Second Amendment supporter, don't get me wrong. But for him to be out there, and have access to weapons after that incident, I don't understand it."