COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. A Colorado Springs gay club was ordered held without bail Wednesday.
Anderson Lee Aldrich, 22, could be seen slumped in a chair with visible injuries to the suspect’s face and head in a short video from the jail. Aldrich appeared to need prompting from defense attorneys and offered a slurred response when asked by El Paso District Court Judge Charlotte Ankeny to state their name.
The suspect was beaten by patrons during a taping at Club Q on Saturday night and was released from the hospital on Tuesday. The motive for the shooting is still under investigation, but authorities said he faces possible murder and hate crime charges.
Hate crime charges will require proof that the shooter was motivated by bias, such as against the victims’ actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. The charges against Aldrich are preliminary, and prosecutors have not yet filed formal charges. Aldrich is represented by Joseph Archambault, chief trial deputy for the state public defender’s office. The lawyers of the office do not comment on the cases to the media.
Defense attorneys said late Tuesday that the suspect is non-binary and referred to the suspect in court documents as “Mx. Aldrich.” Attorneys’ notes claim that Aldrich is non-binary and uses their pronouns.
Prosecutor Michael Allen referred to the suspect as “she” several times during a press briefing after the hearing and said that he believed the suspect’s gender status would not change anything about the case. Allen said Aldrich is “physically competent” to face the charges.
Ankeny scheduled the next court session for December 6.
Aldrich’s name was changed more than six years ago when he was a teenager after filing a legal petition in Texas to try to “protect himself” from his father, who had a criminal history, including domestic violence against Aldrich’s mother.
Aldrich was known as Nicholas Franklin Brink until 2016. Weeks before she turned 16, Aldrich successfully petitioned a Texas court to change her name, court records show. A name change petition was filed on Brink’s behalf by his legal guardians at the time.
“The minor wants to protect himself and his future from being linked to his birth father and his criminal history. The father has not had contact with the minor for several years,” the petition, filed in Bexar County, Texas, states.
The suspect’s father is a mixed martial artist and pornographer with an extensive criminal history, including charges against the alleged shooter’s mother, Laura Voepel, both before and after the suspect was born, state and federal court records show. In 2002, a misdemeanor conviction in California resulted in a protective order initially barring the father, Aaron F. Brink, to contact the suspect or Voepel except through an attorney, but was later amended to allow supervised visits with the child.
The father was also sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison for importing marijuana, and violated his conditions while on supervised release by testing positive for illegal steroids, according to public records. Brink could not be reached for comment.
One of the suspect’s grandfathers is outgoing California State Assemblyman Randy Voepel. The suspect’s mother, Laura Voepel, identified Randy Voepel as her father in a 2020 post about her time in the state legislature.
Voepel, a Republican, has had a mixed record on voting on LGBTQ bills. He compared the January 6 attack on the US Capitol to the Revolutionary War, calling it “the first shots fired against tyranny.” In response to criticism, he later said that he “does not condone or support the violence and lawlessness that occurred.”
Randy Voepel did not return phone calls seeking comment. It’s unclear how close he is to the suspect.
The request to change Aldrich’s name comes several months after Aldrich was apparently the target of online bullying. A website published in June 2015 that attacked a teenager named Nick Brink suggested they may have been bullied in high school. The post included photos of the shooting suspect and mocked Brink for their weight, lack of money and interest in Chinese cartoons.
In addition, a YouTube account was created under Brink’s name, which included an animation entitled “Asian Gay Being Abused”.
The name change and intimidation were first reported by The Washington Post.
Court documents confirming Aldrich’s arrest have been sealed at the request of prosecutors.
Local and federal authorities have declined to answer questions about why the hate crime charges are being considered. District Attorney Michael Allen said the murder charge would carry the maximum penalty of life in prison, while the bias crimes would be subject to probation. He also said it’s important to show the community that bias-motivated crimes are not tolerated.
Aldrich was arrested last year after their mother reported her child had threatened her with a homemade bomb and other weapons. Doorbell video obtained by The Associated Press shows Aldrich arriving at their mother’s front door on the day of the 2021 bomb threat with a large black bag, telling her the police were nearby and adding: “Here I stand. Today I die.”
Authorities at the time said no explosives were found, but gun control advocates questioned why police didn’t use Colorado’s “red flag” laws to seize the guns Aldrich’s mother said her child had.
After Wednesday’s court hearing, Allen declined to answer questions about the 2021 bomb threat.
The weekend attack happened at a nightclub known as a haven for the LGBTQ community in this largely conservative city of about 480,000, about 70 miles (110 kilometers) south of Denver.
Long time patron of Club Q who was shot, said that the club’s reputation made it a target. In a video message, Ed Sanders said he thought about what he would do after the 2016 mass shooting at the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, that killed 49 people..
“I think this incident highlights the fact that LGBT people need to be loved,” Sanders, 63, said. “I want to be resilient. I am a survivor. Some sick person will not take me out.”
Authorities said Aldrich used a long gun and was stopped by two patrons of the club, including Richard Fierro, who told reporters he took a gun from Aldrich, hit them and held them down with the help of another person until police arrived. has arrived.
The victims were Raymond Green Vance, a 22-year-old Colorado Springs native who was saving up for his own apartment; Ashley Poe, 35, a mother who helped find homes for foster children; Daniel Aston, 28, who worked as a bartender and entertainer at the club; Kelly Loving, 40, whose sister described him as “caring and sweet”. and Derrick Rump, 38, another bartender at the club known for his wit.
Bedine is a staff member of The Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America It’s a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on classified issues.
Associated Press reporters Bernard Condon in New York, Jake Bleiberg in Dallas, Kathleen Ronane in Sacramento, Matthew Brown in Billings, Montana, Stephanie Dazio in Los Angeles and news researcher Rhonda Schaffner in New York.