COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — The alleged shooter faces possible hate crime charges in the death shooting of five people at a Colorado Springs gay nightclub is not binary, the suspect’s defense team said in court filings.
In several standard motions filed on behalf of Anderson Lee Aldrich on Tuesday, public defenders call the suspect “Mx. Aldrich,” noting in the footnotes that Aldrich, 22, is non-binary and uses the pronouns them/them. The motions deal with issues such as unsealing and evidence gathering, not Aldrich’s identity and there was no elaboration on this.
Aldrich, who was beaten by patrons in Saturday night’s shooting at Club Q, was due to appear in court for the first time on Wednesday via video from jail. The motive for the shooting was still under investigation, but authorities said Aldrich faces possible murder and hate crime charges.
Hate crime charges would require proof that the shooter was motivated by bias, such as against the victims’ real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. The charges against Aldrich are preliminary and prosecutors have yet to file formal charges. Aldrich is represented by Joseph Archambault, chief deputy in the office of the state’s public defender. The firm’s attorneys do not comment on cases to the media.
It was also revealed on Tuesday that Aldrich’s name was changed more than six years ago when he was a teenager, after he filed a legal petition in Texas seeking ‘protection’ from a father with a criminal background. , including domestic violence against Aldrich’s mother.
Aldrich, who faces murder and hate crime charges, was known as Nicholas Franklin Brink until 2016. Weeks before he turned 16, Aldrich petitioned a Texas court to change his name , according to court records. A name change petition was submitted on Brink’s behalf by their grandparents, who were their legal guardians at the time.
“The minor wishes to protect himself and his future from any connection with his biological father and his criminal history. The father has had no contact with the minor for several years,” the petition filed in Bexar County, Texas reads.
The suspect’s father is a mixed martial arts fighter and pornographic artist with an extensive criminal history, including assault convictions against the alleged shooter’s mother, Laura Voepel, both before and after the suspect’s birth , according to state and federal court records. A 2002 misdemeanor battery conviction in California resulted in a protective order that initially prohibited the father, Aaron F. Brink, from contacting the suspect or Voepel except through an attorney, but was later changed to allow supervised visits with the child.
The father was also sentenced to 2½ years in custody for importing marijuana and, while on probation, he violated his conditions by testing positive for illegal steroids, according to public records. Brink could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.
Aldrich’s name change request came months after Aldrich was reportedly the target of online bullying. A June 2015 website posting that attacked a teenager named Nick Brink suggests he may have been bullied in high school. The message included photos similar to those of the shooting suspect and ridiculed Brink about their weight, lack of money and what he said was an interest in Chinese cartoons.
Additionally, a YouTube account was opened in Brink’s name which included an animation titled “Asian Gay Gets Mugged”.
The name change and bullying was first reported by The Washington Post.
Aldrich was tackled and beaten by bar patrons in the attack which left 17 other people shot and wounded. Aldrich faces five charges of murder and five charges of committing a bias-motivated crime causing bodily harm, court records online showed.
Aldrich was released from the hospital and was being held in the El Paso County Jail, police said.
Aldrich was arrested last year after their mother reported that her child had threatened her with a pipe bomb and other weapons. Doorbell video obtained by The Associated Press shows Aldrich arriving at their mother’s front door with a large black bag on the day of the 2021 bomb threat, telling her that police were nearby and adding “This is where 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 which Aldrich’s mother says her child possessed.
The weekend assault took place at a nightclub known as a sanctuary for the LGBTQ community in this mostly conservative city of about 480,000 people about 110 miles south of Denver.
A longtime patron of Club Q who was shot in the back and thigh said the club’s reputation made him a target. Speaking in a video statement released by UC Health Memorial Hospital, Ed Sanders said he was thinking about what he would do in a mass shooting after the 2016 massacre of 49 people at gay Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida.
“I think this incident underscores the fact that LGBT people need to be loved,” Sanders, 63, said. “I want to be resilient. I’m a survivor. I’m not going to be taken away by a sick person.
Court documents establishing Aldrich’s arrest were sealed at the request of prosecutors.
Local and federal authorities declined to answer questions about why hate crime charges were being considered. District Attorney Michael Allen noted that murder charges would carry the harshest sentence — life in prison — while bias crimes are eligible for probation. He also said it was important to show the community that bias-motivated crimes are not tolerated.
The attack was stopped by two club patrons, including Richard Fierro, who told reporters he took a handgun from Aldrich, hit them with it and pinned them down with the help of another person .
The victims were Raymond Green Vance, 22, a Colorado Springs native who was saving money to have his own apartment; Ashley Paugh, 35, a mother who helped find homes for adopted children; Daniel Aston, 28, who had worked at the club as a bartender and entertainer; Kelly Loving, 40, who her sister described as “caring and sweet”; and Derrick Rump, 38, another club bartender known for his wit.
Bedayn is a member of the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on underreported issues.
Associated Press reporters Bernard Condon in New York, Colleen Slevin in Denver, Jake Bleiberg in Dallas, Amy Forliti in Minneapolis, Matthew Brown in Billings, Montana, Jill Bleed in Little Rock, Arkansas, Stefanie Dazio in Los Angeles and the researcher Rhonda Shafner of New York contributed.