Gay club shooting suspect violated Colorado’s Red Flag gun law

DENVER (AP) – A year and a half before he was arrested in the Colorado Springs gay nightclub shooting that killed five people, Anderson Lee Aldrich allegedly threatened his mother with a homemade bomb, neighbors at nearby homes was forced to evacuate during the bomb squad. And the crisis negotiators talked him into surrendering.

Yet despite that fear, there is no record prosecutors moved forward with felony kidnapping and threatening charges against Aldrich, or that police or relatives tried to trigger Colorado’s “red flag” law, which allowed authorities to would have been allowed to confiscate the weapons and give the man’s mother the ammo she had.

Gun control advocates say Aldrich’s June 2021 threat is an example of ignoring a red flag law that could have potentially fatal consequences. While it’s not clear whether the law could have prevented Saturday night’s attack — such gun seizures can be in effect for 14 days and extended by a judge in six-month increments — they say it At least Eldritch could have slowed down and increased. Profile with law enforcement.

“We need heroes first — parents, colleagues, friends who are watching someone go down this path,” said Colorado state representative Tom Sullivan. , “That should have alerted them, put them on their radar.”

But laws that allow guns to be removed from people deemed dangerous to themselves or others have been rarely used in the state, especially in El Paso County, home to Colorado Springs, where Aldrich, 22, Reportedly went to Club Q. Just before midnight he opened fire with a long gun and before being subdued by the patrons.

An Associated Press analysis found that Colorado has one of the lowest rates of red flag use, despite widespread gun ownership and several high-profile mass shootings.

Courts have issued 151 gun surrender orders since the law took effect from April 2019 to 2021, three surrender orders for every 100,000 adults in the state. That’s a third of the proportion of orders issued for the 19 states and the District of Columbia that have surrender laws on their books.

El Paso County appears to be particularly hostile to the law. It joined nearly 2,000 counties across the country in declaring themselves “Second Amendment sanctuaries” that protect the constitutional right to bear arms, passing a 2019 resolution that says the red flag law is “a violation of the law.” Violates the inalienable rights of obeying citizens” by ordering the police to “forcibly enter premises and seize a citizen’s property without proof of a crime.”

County Sheriff Bill Elder has said that his office will wait for family members to ask the court for a surrender order and will not plead for them on their own, unless there are “exigent circumstances” and “probable cause” of a crime. Are.

El Paso County, with a population of 730,000, had 13 temporary firehouses removed by the end of last year, four of which were at least six months long.

The county sheriff’s office declined to answer what happened after Aldrich’s arrest last year, including whether anyone asked to put away their weapons. A press release issued by the sheriff’s office at the time stated that no explosives had been found, but mentioned nothing about whether any weapons had been recovered.

Spokeswoman Lt. Deborah Myint referred further questions about the case to the district attorney’s office.

An online court records search did not turn up any formal charges filed against Aldrich in last year’s case. And in an update on a story on the bomb threat, The Gazette newspaper of Colorado Springs reported that prosecutors did not pursue any charges in the case and records were sealed.

The Gazette also reported on Sunday that it received a call from Aldrich in August asking him to remove a story about the incident.

Aldrich said in a voice message to an editor, “There is absolutely nothing out there, the matter was dropped, and I am asking you to remove or update the story.” “The whole case was dismissed.”

Howard Black, a spokesman for the district attorney’s office, declined to comment on whether any charges had been filed. He said the investigation into the shooting would also include a bomb threat study.

“No additional information will be released at this time,” Black said. “These are still investigative questions.”

A study of 19 states in AP and the District of Columbia found they have been used about 15,000 times since 2020, less than 10 times for every 100,000 adults in each state. That’s too low and hardly enough to make a dent in gun homicides, experts said.

This same year, officers in Highland Park, Illinois, were criticized for not trying to take the gun away from the 21-year-old accused of a Fourth of July parade shooting that killed seven people. Police were alerted to him in 2019 after he threatened to “kill everyone” in his household.

Duke University sociologist Jeffrey Swanson, an expert on red flag laws, said the Colorado Springs case could be yet another missed warning signal.

“It seems like a no brainer, if mom knew she had guns,” he said. “If you had removed the firearms from the situation, you may have had a different ending to the story.”

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Condon reported from New York.

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Contact AP’s global investigative team at [email protected]

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