Judge warned last year that accused Colorado bar gunman was planning a shootout: ‘It’s going to be so bad’

A judge dismissed a 2021 kidnapping case against the accused Colorado gay nightclub shooter warned last year that the defendant had stockpiled guns and planned shootings and needed mental health treatment or “it’s going to get that bad.”

The comments made by Judge Robin Chittum last August are contained in court documents obtained by The Associated Press. They add to the warning signs authorities had about Anderson Aldrich’s increasingly violent behavior before the Nov. 19 shootings at Club Q in Colorado Springs.

Five people were killed and 17 injured. The suspect was charged last week with 305 criminal charges, including hate crimes and murder. Aldrich’s public defender declined to talk about the case under Colorado court rules.

The judge’s comments came during a preliminary hearing on allegations that Aldrich kidnapped their grandparents and was previously under a judicial seal that was lifted last week.

“You were clearly planning on something else,” Chittum told the suspect during the hearing, after the defendant testified about an affinity for firearms and a history of mental health issues.

“It had nothing to do with your grandparents. We were saving all these firearms and trying to build this bomb and we’re making statements about other people involved in some kind of shooting and a huge thing. And then that’s kind of what it turned into,” the judge said.

Chittum’s assistant, Chad Dees, said Friday that the judge declined to comment.

The 2021 charges against Aldrich — who had stockpiled explosives and allegedly talked about plans to be the “next mass murderer” before engaging in a gunfight with SWAT teams — were dismissed during a four-minute hearing last July, in which the prosecution did I do not even argue to keep the case active.

Chittum, who received a letter last year from relatives of the grandparents warning that the suspect was “certain” to commit murder if released, accepted a motion by defense lawyers to dismiss the case because a deadline was approaching to charge it in trial.

There was no discussion that July of Aldrich’s mental health lawsuit, violent past or exploring options to compel Aldrich’s grandparents and mother to testify.

Details of the failed 2021 prosecution — presented in 13 hearing transcripts obtained by the AP — paint a picture of possible flaws in the case against the suspect and raise more questions about whether enough was done to stop the recent mass shooting.

During the 2021 standoff, Aldrich allegedly told the frightened grandparents about firearms and bomb-making material in the basement of the home they all shared. Aldrich vowed not to let the grandparents interfere with plans to “go out to the fire.”

Aldrich — who is non-binary and uses their pronouns, according to defense attorneys — live-streamed on Facebook an ensuing standoff with SWAT teams at the home of their mother, Laura Voepel, where the defendant eventually surrendered, was arrested and weapons were seized. The FBI had received a tip about Aldrich the day before the threat, but closed the case a few weeks later and no federal charges were filed.

By August 2021, when the suspect was released from prison, the grandparents described the suspect as a “sweet young man,” according to District Attorney Michael Allen. In two subsequent hearings in the fall, defense attorneys described how Aldrich attended therapy sessions for trauma, PTSD and mental health and took drugs to induce drowsiness, transcripts show.

In an exchange in the courtroom in October 2021, Chittum told the suspect to “hang in there with the drugs.”

“It’s definitely an adjustment period,” Aldrich responded, to which the judge replied, “Yeah, it’ll be sorted, don’t worry. Good luck”.

The case led to a plea deal earlier this year, but collapsed after family members stopped cooperating and prosecutors failed to successfully subpoena Aldrich’s 69-year-old grandmother, who was bedridden in Florida, to testify.

There is little discussion in the minutes of prosecutors’ efforts to subpoena other potential witnesses — including Aldrich’s mother, grandfather and a fourth person named in court documents but who has not been identified.

Howard Black, a spokesman for the district attorney’s office, said he could not share information about the kidnapping case because it is part of an ongoing investigation. Allen said his office was doing everything it could to prosecute the case, including trying to subpoena Aldrich’s mother, but has repeatedly declined to elaborate.

Alan Dersowitz, an attorney and Harvard law professor, said that it is extremely difficult to predict violent crimes, but that Aldrich’s case is a rare example where the evidence was so overwhelming about past and possible future crimes that the suspect “obviously would should have been limited. “

“This doesn’t seem like a hard case,” Dershowitz said Thursday. “This looks like a case of prosecutorial incompetence.”

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