Club Q victims deserve better law enforcement and criminal justice

Colorado Springs’ Club Q massacre should never have happened. Awful local law enforcement allowed Anderson Lee Aldrich to carry out a stated intention to commit mass murder.

Caught red-handed and violent, Aldrich should have been incarcerated during 2022. In her June 18, 2021, affidavit, El Paso County Sheriff’s Deputy Bethany Gibson explained how Pamela Pullen called police dispatch that day after escaping her violent grandson.  

Pullen reported Aldrich wanted to be the “next mass killer,” and was accumulating ammunition, firearms and body armor. She said Aldrich was making a bomb downstairs and wanted to “go out in a blaze.”

Aldrich, outraged at his grandparents’ planned Florida move, reportedly held his family hostage at gunpoint. Chugging vodka and smoking heroin, Aldrich wanted the right mood to carry out ultimate violence.

We can all witness an intoxicated Aldrich threatening law enforcement, while live-streaming and screaming, (and self-identifying as male): “This is your boy! I’ve got the f****** s*** heads outside. They got a bead on me. See that right there. F****** s*** heads got their f****** rifles out. If they breach, I’m a f****** blow it to holy hell. So go ahead and come on in, boys! Let’s f****** see it!”

El Paso County District Attorney Michael Allen foolishly only filed charges of first-degree kidnapping and felony menacing, naming Aldrich’s grandparents and mother as victims. 

An alert DA would’ve anticipated familial recantation. They were already fleeing town. Subpoenas should have gone out fast for preliminary hearings. 

Once witnesses are out of state, subpoenas can still be served. Fellow law enforcement or talented process servers do such work routinely.

Colorado, Georgia and Florida have adopted the Uniform Law to Secure Witnesses in Criminal Proceedings. Such a subpoena is how Fulton County Georgia DA Fani Willis worked with Larimer County Colorado DA Gordon McLaughlin to compel the appearance of Trump-collaborator Jenna Ellis.

DA Allen served none of Aldrich’s three victims with a subpoena. He also failed to demonstrate due diligence attempting service of process.  Accordingly, and tragically, on July 5, 2022, the entire case against Aldrich was dismissed. The prosecution seemed confused and acquiesced.

Having familiarized herself with the case, Judge Robin Chittum comprehended the defendant’s dangerousness. “It’s going to be so bad,” Judge Chittum stated at one hearing, warning of Aldrich’s shootout plans. 

Judges don’t file charges. That’s the prosecutor’s job. This case could have proceeded had further charges, not dependent on familial testimony, been filed. Additional Colorado criminal statutes apply to that June 2021 criminal episode. Prosecutors routinely add charges, almost whenever they desire.

Obstructing peace officers by threatening violence (cue that live-stream) is a Colorado misdemeanor. It’s also a Colorado misdemeanor to possess a firearm while under the influence of liquor or drugs. Add in some disorderly conduct. Misdemeanors add up.

And how about the obvious bomb charge? We don’t allow homemade explosives in Colorado. It is a class-four felony to possess explosives or component parts. 

When El Paso County sheriff’s deputies searched Aldrich’s home, they found numerous firearms, hundreds of rounds of ammunition, body armor, magazines, a gas mask and a 12-gallon tub filled with explosive chemicals.

The tub contained 113 pounds of ammonium nitrate and packets of aluminum powder that are explosive when combined. Are you kidding me?

On Nov. 29, 2021, Aldrich’s uncle wrote El Paso County authorities informing them that his nephew had, post-arrest, been given $30,000, “much of which went to his purchase of two 3D printers — on which he was making guns.” 

El Paso County law enforcement again reacted by apparently doing nothing. Even Tucker Carlson questioned this approach. Sheriff Bill Elder, a self-proclaimed constitutional authority, could hardly wait to respond. 

Elder took offense at Carlson and other critics as he appeared on conservative Colorado radio shows. Elder described taking Aldrich’s firearms as part of the criminal case process, and explained there was no need to use Colorado’s civil red flag law, which Elder long ago determined was unconstitutional. 

Following the case dismissal, Elder refused Aldrich’s entreaties to return the guns. Since the dismissal was without prejudice, Sheriff Elder decided he could keep depriving Aldrich of firearms. 

But oops. Following the July 5, 2021, dismissal, Aldrich could lawfully buy firearms again. According to reports, Aldrich soon thereafter began boasting about newly acquired assault weapons.

El Paso County law enforcement bears responsibility for enormous errors here. Colorado’s U.S. Attorney, Cole Finegan, should take over and bring federal charges. Capital punishment should be considered.  

These Club Q victims and their families shouldn’t have to interact further with DA Allen. He let them down.

When Dylann Roof mass murdered eight churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina, he was prosecuted federally, and a death penalty verdict obtained. Similarly, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was sentenced to death in federal court for his Boston Marathon hate crime murders of three victims. Both defendants were younger than Aldrich when they committed their atrocities. 

Not only should federal authorities take over Aldrich’s multiple murder prosecution, they should competently prosecute the June 2021 incident, too. When criminality goes unpunished, it gets repeated. 

Federal prosecutors can utilize statutes prohibiting hate crimes, bomb-making and homicides. Club Q victims deserve better law enforcement and criminal justice.

Craig Silverman is a former Denver chief deputy DA. Craig is columnist at large for The Colorado Sun and an active Colorado trial lawyer with Craig Silverman Law, LLC. He also hosts The Craig Silverman Show podcast.

Club Q victims deserve better law enforcement and criminal justice

Silverman: Club Q victims deserve better law enforcement and criminal justice. Let the feds take over.