Newly released footage from a June 2021 standoff between the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office and the Club Q mass shooter has raised questions about the handling of weapons prior to the November 2022 attack that claimed five lives. The video, obtained by Denver7, shows law enforcement officials demanding Anderson Aldrich, the shooter, to come out of a home with empty hands. Aldrich eventually complied and was taken into custody.
Aldrich, who identifies as nonbinary, faced charges related to the alleged kidnapping of their grandparents during the standoff. However, those charges were dismissed in July 2022 due to lack of cooperation from family members. Two guns confiscated from Aldrich during the standoff were not returned, but the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office chose not to pursue using an extreme risk protection order to prevent Aldrich from obtaining firearms after the case was dismissed.
On November 19, Aldrich entered the Club Q nightclub and fatally shot five individuals, injuring 18 others. Aldrich pleaded guilty to five counts of murder and was sentenced. The El Paso County Sheriff’s Office stated that they did not seek an extreme risk protection order against Aldrich after the prior case was dismissed because he was no longer considered a threat “in the near future” as required by the red flag law.
Criminal law expert Farrell believes that local authorities may have had other options to charge Aldrich with crimes that would have prevented him from possessing weapons for a longer period. The decision not to invoke the red flag law has raised concerns, particularly in light of the county’s declaration as a “Second Amendment Preservation County” and the sheriff’s office policy of using the law only in “exigent circumstances.”
Survivors and family members of the Club Q shooting victims have alerted El Paso County of their belief that the shooting could have been prevented if a red flag order had been sought. Gun safety researcher Dr. Chris Knoepke has gathered data on extreme risk protection order applications in Colorado and believes that the number of cases where such orders could have made a difference is significant.