Suspected shooter faces possible hate crime charges in death shooting of five people at a Colorado Springs gay nightclub was sentenced to detention without bail in an initial court appearance on Wednesday as the suspect sat slumped in a chair.
Anderson Lee Aldrich, 22, could be seen with visible injuries to his face and head in a brief video appearance from prison. Aldrich appeared to need prompting from defense attorneys and offered a confused response when asked to say his name by El Paso County Court Judge Charlotte Ankeny.
The suspect was beaten into submission by customers on Saturday evening shooting at Club Q and was discharged from hospital on Tuesday. The motive for the shooting is still under investigation, but authorities said he could be charged with murder and a hate crime.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
Allen declined to answer questions related to the 2021 bomb threat after Wednesday’s hearing.
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 said the club’s reputation made him a target. In a video statement, Ed Sanders said he was thinking about what he would do in a mass shooting after the 2016 massacre of 49 people in Pulse gay 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.
Authorities said Aldrich used a long gun and was arrested by two club patrons, including Richard Fierro, who told reporters he took a handgun from Aldrich, hit them with it and shot them. stuck with the help of another person until the police arrived.
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.
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