DENVER (AP) — A judge was set to consider Wednesday whether authorities should be punished after the media obtained documents showing detailed allegations about the suspect in the Colorado gay nightclub shooting previously plotting to be “the next mass killer" in an old case that was sealed at the time.
Lawyers for Anderson Aldrich, who is charged with killing five people and wounding 17 others at Club Q in Colorado Springs in November, accuse the El Paso County Sheriff's Office of leaking documents in the old case to the media. They want a judge to hold the office in contempt and order it to pay $10,000 in fines and train staff on the records sealing law.
But the sheriff's office says that Aldrich's lawyers have not presented any facts showing that the sheriff's office leaked the documents, noting that Aldrich's lawyers have also said that courthouse staff could have been the source of the information. It has asked for the defense contempt motion to be dismissed.
In 2021, Aldrich, who is nonbinary and uses they/them pronouns, was arrested after their grandparents told authorities that Aldrich threatened to kill them after becoming upset about their plans to move and get in the way of Aldrich's alleged plan to stockpile guns, ammunition, body armor and a homemade bomb.
“You guys die today and I’m taking you with me,” they quoted Aldrich as saying. “I’m loaded and ready.”
The charges filed against Aldrich in the 2021 case were dropped after the grandparents refused to cooperate with prosecutors and testify. The court file was sealed under a state law aimed at preventing people from having their lives ruined if cases are dismissed and never prosecuted.
However, Colorado Springs television station KKTV obtained documents that showed details of the allegations against Aldrich in the old case. The documents were later verified as authentic to The Associated Press by a law enforcement official who was not authorized to discuss the sealed case and kept anonymous.
One day after the AP story ran that illustrated how the dropped case was one of most glaring missed warnings in America’s long line of mass violence, Judge Robin Chittum unsealed the 2021 case last month at the request of the sheriff’s office, district attorney’s office and a coalition of media outlets including the AP. Judge Chittum said the “profound” public interest in the case outweighed Aldrich’s privacy rights.