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.
Defense attorneys said Tuesday night that the suspect was non-binary and in court documents he was referred to as “Mx. Aldrich. The attorneys’ footnotes claim that Aldrich is non-binary and uses the pronouns them/them.
Prosecutor Michael Allen repeatedly referred to the suspect as “he” during a press briefing after the hearing and said the suspect’s gender status would not change the case in his view. Allen said Aldrich was “physically competent” to press charges.
Ankeny has set the next hearing for December 6.
Aldrich’s name was changed more than six years ago when he was a teenager, after he filed a lawsuit in Texas seeking ‘protection’ from a father with a criminal history, including domestic violence against Aldrich’s mother.
Aldrich was known as Nicholas Franklin Brink until 2016. Weeks before he turned 16, Aldrich successfully petitioned a Texas court to change his name, court records show. A petition for the name change was submitted on Brink’s behalf by his 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, Aaron Brink, 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 barred Aaron Brink from contacting the suspect or Voepel except through an attorney, but was later amended to allow supervised visitation with the child.
Aaron Brink told the San Diego CBS affiliate, KFMB-TV, that he was shocked to learn of Aldrich’s alleged involvement. He said his first reaction was to wonder why Aldrich was in a gay bar. Brink said he didn’t have much contact with his child but taught him how to fight, “praising” Aldrich for his violent behavior at an early age. He added that he was sorry for letting Aldrich down. Brink said “there’s no excuse for going out and killing people. If you kill people, there is something wrong. That’s not the answer.
One of the suspect’s grandfathers is Randy Voepel, an incumbent in the California State Assembly. The suspect’s mother, Laura Voepel, identified Randy Voepel as her father on her Facebook page in a 2020 post about his time in the state Legislature.
Voepel, a Republican, has had a mixed record 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 he “did not condone or support the violence and lawlessness that took place”.
Randy Voepel did not return phone calls seeking comment. It is unclear how close he was to the suspect.
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.