Anderson Lee Aldrich wore a bulletproof vest and was armed with a high-powered rifle upon entering a Colorado Springs LGBT+ nightclub minutes before midnight on 19 November, then fired “almost immediately” and “indiscriminately” towards the crowd inside, according to the recently unsealed affidavit for the suspect’s arrest.
The document remained under seal after it was filed on 20 November, hours after the suspect allegedly fatally shot five people and injured more than a dozen others inside Club Q.
A judge ordered the affidavit unsealed following the suspect’s first court appearance on 6 December.
Aldrich faces 305 criminal charges, including five counts of first-degree murder and multiple counts of hate crimes, following a massacre that has rocked the city’s LGBT+ community.
According to the Colorado Springs Police Department, Aldrich arrived in a gold Toyota Highlander wearing a ballistic vest and carrying an AR-15-style rifle. A pair of attached black-and-white surveillance images in the police affidavit appear to show Aldrich leaving the car then firing into the club.
After entering the business a short distance, [Aldrich] opened fire indiscriminately at patrons inside of the club,” according to the affidavit.
After club patrons tackled the suspect before police arrived, Aldrich was transported to a nearby hospital, where police overheard the alleged shooter “tell medical staff he was sorry and he had been awake for four days,” according to the document.
Attorneys for Aldrich claim in court documents that the suspect identifies as nonbinary and uses they and them pronouns. The affidavit uses “he” to refer to Aldrich.
The affidavit notes a “tremendous amount of blood, medical intervention debris, and clothing items scattered directly outside of the club” were discovered by police upon their arrival on the scene the night of the attack.
After a detective contacted the suspect’s mother, Laura Voepel, at her home, she reportedly told police that she and Aldrich were “going to go to a movie” that night but Aldrich left for an errand that “would only take 15 minutes,” the affidavit says. Aldrich took her phone and did not speak with her again that night, according to the document.
She said there were no weapons inside the home other than a folding pocket knife that belonged to Aldrich. Police recovered two firearms at the scene – the AR-style rifle and a pistol – and a rifle cartridge was discovered in the front passenger seat of the Highlander.
Richard Fierro, a US Army veteran who was at the club with family and friends to watch a drag performance, told police that he helped tackle the suspect moments after a blast of bullets were fired.
He said he saw the suspect “continue shooting towards what he believed to be the patio area” then witnessed an “unknown male pull the suspect to the ground and he went over to help him.”
At least three people – including Mr Fierro, US Navy petty officer Thomas James and an unnamed woman – helped subdue the suspect to stop the massacre, according to multiple witness reports.
“Richard Fierro stated the suspect was lying face-down on the ground, he (Richard Fierro) got on his back, and began striking him. Richard Fierro stated the suspect continued to try and grab the AR-rifle which was towards the suspect’s right hand,” according to the affidavit.
Mr Fierro said “he was able to get the handgun away from the suspect and began striking … anywhere he could on the suspect’s body to get the suspect to stop fighting,” he told police.
He also said the suspect “appeared to have multiple rifle magazines” and heard the suspect try to reload after the first volley of gunfire.
Aldrich’s booking photos show the suspect with multiple injuries, including widespread bruising of the face and neck.
Law enforcement agencies have not yet publicly discussed a motive for the attack, but the club’s owners and LGBT+ advocates have condemned a surge of inflammatory anti-gay and anti-trans rhetoric and politicised harassment from right-wing and religious figures and Republican officials in the weeks and months that preceded the shooting.
Federal investigators are also reportedly probing a pair of websites allegedly connected to Aldrich were users can anonymously post racist and antisemitic memes, language and videos, according to NBC News.
One website video titled “Wrong Targets” reportedly advocates for killing civilians as part of a larger effort to “assassinate the elites at the top” and “cleanse” society, the outlet reported.
Aldrich also was arrested in 2021 for felony menacing and kidnapping charges after Ms Voepel reportedly told police that Aldrich “was threatening to cause harm to her with a homemade bomb, multiple weapons and ammunition.”
Sealed law enforcement documents reviewed by the Associated Press reportedly document that Aldrich was armed with a pistol and warned family about a plan to stockpile weapons to become “the next mass killer.”
“You guys die today and I’m taking you with me,” Aldrich is reportedly quoted as saying. “I’m loaded and ready.”
Aldrich was never prosecuted in that case and a bomb was not discovered. A judge is scheduled to hear arguments to determine whether documents from that case should be unsealed.
A preliminary hearing for Aldrich’s charges in the Club Q shooting is scheduled for 22 February 2023.