In the early morning hours of November 20, 2022, several El Paso County-area citizens were killed, and numerous others were injured, resulting from the tragic and senseless mass shooting at the Club Q nightclub in Colorado Springs. Sheriff Bill Elder, and the almost 1,000 sworn members, professional staff, and volunteers of the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office, mourn with those victims, their friends and families, and our community.
The investigation into that incident was led by the Colorado Springs Police Department (CSPD) and has since been referred for prosecution to the 4th Judicial District Attorney’s Office. All questions related specifically to the Club Q incident should be directed to the DA’s Office.
Shortly after it was announced that the suspect in that incident, Anderson Aldrich, was arrested by the CSPD, the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office (EPSO) was inundated with questions, comments, criticisms, and condemnations about a previous encounter we had with Aldrich in June of 2021. Until now, state law prohibited us from speaking about that interaction as all related incident, case investigation, and prosecution records had been sealed prior to the Club Q shooting. However, as of today, those records were unsealed, now legally permitting us to comment on them.
Before going further, Sheriff Elder proudly stands behind the men and women of the Sheriff’s Office involved in our previous case involving Aldrich and their handling of that incident and investigation. From the initial responding Patrol Division personnel, to the Tactical Support Unit (TSU), to the involved detectives, everything lawfully possible was accomplished by EPSO personnel in accordance with applicable and available state laws to keep weapons away from Aldrich and protect the public.
Since our previous involvement with Aldrich came to light following the Club Q shooting, rumors, false allegations, and incendiary accusations have reached a crescendo that ignorantly denigrated our actions surrounding our arrest of Aldrich in the summer of 2021 despite our repeated reminders to the media, our community members, and politicians that state law strictly prohibited any comment being made by us regarding that previous involvement.
Even more recently local, state, and national politicians and other prominent voices have taken these baseless attacks to the next level and have begun to imply this shooting occurred because the EPSO failed to apply for an Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO) against Aldrich and did not seize his firearms.
We certainly recognize that the void of accurate information regarding the EPSO’s previous involvement with Aldrich brought about by the court’s prior sealing of that record created an information vacuum within which such falsehoods could fester. We acknowledge how frustrating this has been, but again remind everyone state law strictly prohibited us from divulging any details about that previous involvement.
From a media standpoint, we believe journalistic integrity should have advocated for patience in reporting to ensure a TRUE story was told, not the most expedient story. We could not have been clearer that state law forbade us from commenting on the matter.
Additionally, we believe some politicians at various levels have been woefully irresponsible to fan the flames of perception-driven public discontent while they should have reasonably known they did not have the needed information with which to form their influential, yet unfounded and ignorant, opinions.
We can’t speak to the active investigation CSPD is conducting into the Club Q shooting or to the prosecution efforts of District Attorney Michael Allen and his team at the 4th Judicial District Attorney’s Office, specifically as to what information may exist to detail what weapon(s) Aldrich is alleged to have used at Club Q or how Aldrich allegedly came to possess a weapon.
We can, however, certainly detail our previous contact with and arrest of Aldrich, the charges we filed against Aldrich in district court, the disposition of those charges, and the status of evidence seized from Aldrich stemming from our previous encounter. We can also explain why an ERPO was not sought in this case by the EPSO. Those details are as follows:
-On Friday, June 18, 2021, just before 2pm, Patrol Division deputies with the El Paso County Sheriff's Office responded to a report of a bomb threat at a home in the 9800 block of Rubicon Drive. This is in the Security/Widefield area of unincorporated El Paso County.
-After an initial investigation, probable cause was found for Aldrich’s arrest on the charges of Felony Menacing and First-Degree Kidnapping. After obtaining search and arrest warrants, the Sheriff's Office Tactical Support Unit (comprised of SWAT, K9, Crisis Negotiators, EOD, Tactical Medics from the Colorado Springs Fire Department, and Tactical Dispatchers) apprehended Aldrich after a standoff and negotiation at that home on Rubicon Drive. Aldrich was immediately booked into the El Paso County Jail. Recognizing the threat not only to the victims in that investigation but also to the general public, the arresting deputy requested, and was granted by the judge, an enhanced bond of $1 million.
-On the day of Aldrich’s arrest, both the home on Rubicon Drive, as well as a home in the 6300 block of Pilgrimage Road at which Aldrich was known to frequent, were searched under the probable cause established leading to the previously obtained search warrants. All firearms belonging to Aldrich that were located during those searches were seized and placed into the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office Evidence Facility. Additionally, bomb-making materials were also located and seized and placed into the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office Evidence Facility.
-On June 22, 2021, while still detained inside the El Paso County Jail, Aldrich was present at a charge advisement hearing. Aldrich remained in the El Paso County Jail following this advisement hearing. At that same time, in accordance with CRS 18-1-1001, and pursuant to the list of applicable crimes listed in CRS 24-4.1.302, a Mandatory Protection Order (MPO) was also set in place against Aldrich. That MPO ordered Aldrich to stay away from the home of the victim/witness or any other place the victim/witness is likely to be, to refrain from contacting the victim/witness, to not possess or control firearms or other weapons, and other provisions.
-On July 1, 2021, while still detained inside the El Paso County Jail, Aldrich made a first appearance in court on the charges in the case. Aldrich remained in the El Paso County Jail following this first appearance.
-On August 5, 2021, while still detained inside the El Paso County Jail, Aldrich appeared before a judge and, during an in-person preliminary hearing, the presiding judge reduced the bond amount from $1 million to $100,000 and lifted only the portions of the MPO that had previously prevented Aldrich from being with or contacting a victim/witness. It’s important to note that the portion of the MPO prohibiting him from possessing firearms remained in effect.
-On August 7, 2021, Aldrich bonded out of the El Paso County Jail and was subjected to the bond conditions as set forth by the judge during the above-described August 5, 2021, hearing. The MPO prohibiting him from possessing firearms remained in effect.
-On July 5, 2022, during one of several motions hearings that occurred after Aldrich bonded out, the judge presiding over the case dismissed the charges against Aldrich and released Aldrich from the conditions of the bond. The judge also dismissed the MPO. Aldrich’s lawful ability to possess firearms was restored at that time.
-On July 6, 2022, a general request for release of all evidence was received by us from the DA’s Office. This is routine procedure following the dismissal of a case.
-On July 7, 2022, Aldrich’s defense team requested a motion to seal the record.
-On July 11, 2022, EPSO evidence staff requested further guidance from the DA’s Office regarding the standardized request for the release of the evidence in this case received from them.
-On August 4, 2022, the DA’s Office amended their standardized request to release the evidence to a request that it be held per the statute of limitations that governed the specific crimes for which Aldrich was previously charged.
-On August 11, 2022, the motion to seal the record was granted.
-On August 12, 2022, Aldrich called our evidence facility to seek the release of all items. This request was denied by us.
Since the day of Aldrich’s arrest associated to this specific case in June of 2021 and up until last week, all the firearms and bomb-making materials seized remained in the control of the EPSO and secured in our evidence facility. This evidence is now in the possession of the 4th Judicial District Attorney’s Office.
In Colorado, an ERPO, as established per HB 19-1177, can be requested by a family member, household member, or by a member of law enforcement. An ERPO allows for the seizure of firearms by law enforcement from a person deemed to be a threat to themselves or others in the near future. An initial request for an ERPO, if granted, would be in effect for 14 days.
Following that 14-day period a second hearing must be set by the court at which time the requesting party must present clear and convincing evidence for the continuance of that initial 14-day order to be granted. If a continued ERPO is granted, it will remain in effect for 364 days or until the respondent might successfully petition the court to terminate the ERPO.
In the particular case of our arrest of Aldrich in 2021, there was never a point in time EPSO needed to file for an ERPO because the MPO that was granted in accordance with CRS 18-1-1001 following Aldrich being charged was to remain in place until the case reached a final disposition, regardless of whether or not Aldrich was in our physical custody or out on bond.
The existence of this MPO prevented Aldrich from lawfully possessing firearms, just as an ERPO would have. To have petitioned for an ERPO after an MPO was issued would have been redundant and unnecessary.
Additionally, particularly upon Aldrich’s release on bond, an ERPO was not needed as all firearms and weapons Aldrich was known to possess had already been seized by us following Aldrich’s arrest in 2021 and remained in our evidence facility.
Furthermore, at the time the MPO was issued, it was also automatically reported to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI) by the courts. The presence of the MPO related to Aldrich in the CBI system would have flagged any attempt by Aldrich to lawfully purchase a firearm while out on bond while the MPO was in effect.
As stated above, approximately 1 month from the dismissal date of the case against Aldrich, the judge sealed the record at Aldrich’s request. This meant that our ability to even present a factual basis for a potential ERPO request at that point was no longer available because the case in which those facts were detailed had been sealed.
Additionally, even if the case had not been sealed, the date on which the facts were established that an ERPO request would have been made (e.g. our June 2021 arrest of Aldrich) was too old to be effective in court because there was no new evidence that a threat could be articulated as existing “in the near future” as was required to prove to obtain an ERPO. As a reminder, the information initially obtained that led to the arrest and charges filed against Aldrich were over a year old by the time the charges against Aldrich and the MPO in place were dismissed.
Ultimately, without an ERPO (for which the government no longer had grounds to request due to the case being sealed in August of 2022 and the age of the information against him having negated its lawful usefulness) or a Felony conviction on his record (because the case was dropped), there was no legal mechanism that even existed that would have prevented Aldrich from lawfully acquiring more firearms following the dismissal of the government’s case against him and the removal of the MPO.
The legal ability Aldrich had to acquire firearms following the dismissal of the previous case and the MPO can only be addressed legislatively. It most certainly is not a situation with which to indict the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office for wrongdoing or inaction in this case.
The facts of our previous contact with and arrest of Aldrich as detailed above certainly fill the information void created by the pertinent records being previously sealed. The false and virulent statements made by community leaders, some in the media, and politicians are countered here with the facts of what occurred.
Regarding the general topic of Colorado’s Extreme Risk Protection Order law, Sheriff Elder has, as have numerous other law enforcement and Constitutional law experts around the state and nation, expressed his opposition to this law AS WRITTEN, not in concept. Sheriff Elder strongly stands behind his commitment to ensuring the 4th Amendment protections of citizens against unreasonable searches and seizures by the government, of which his personnel and he represent. The ERPO law has no such 4th Amendment protections for citizens.
During the initial drafting and passage of the ERPO law in 2019 by the Democratic-controlled Colorado state legislature, law enforcement and constitutional scholars strongly urged the politicians who wrote that law to ensure 4th Amendment protections were in place for respondent citizens against whom an ERPO may be requested; those politicians ignored the requests from the subject matter experts attempting to advise them. Now, in 2022, Sheriff Elder again strongly urges Governor Polis and our state legislators to take a new look at this important legislative issue with expert advice in mind this time in order to craft effective, pragmatic legislation that also passes Constitutional muster.
The El Paso County Sheriff’s Office remains committed to the safety and security of the approximately 740,000 citizens of El Paso County and to ensuring our work toward public safety and law enforcement is carried out with the United States Constitution as its foundation. We continue to mourn the lives lost and damaged as a result of the Club Q shooting.
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