Suspect in shooting at Colorado gay club was held without bail

COLORADO SPRINGS, Col. (AP) – The alleged shooter faces possible hate crime charges in the fatal shooting of five people a gay nightclub in Colorado Springs was ordered to be held without bail in an early court hearing 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 suggestions from defense attorneys and offered a confused response when asked to state his name by El Paso County Courthouse Judge Charlotte Ankeny.

The suspect was beaten into submission by the clients during the Saturday night shoot at Club Q and released from the hospital on Tuesday. The motive for the shooting was still being investigated, but authorities said Aldrich was at risk of being charged with murder and hate crimes.

Hate crime charges would 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.

Defense attorneys said on Tuesday that the suspect is non-binary and in court filings referred to the suspect as “Mx. Aldrich.” The lawyers’ notes state that Aldrich is non-binary and uses them/their pronouns.

Prosecutor Michael Allen repeatedly referred to the suspect as “he” during a press conference following the hearing and said the suspect’s gender status would not change anything about the case in his opinion. Allen said Aldrich was “physically competent” to support the allegations.

Ankeny has set the next hearing for December 6.

Aldrich’s name was changed more than six years ago as a teenager, after he filed for lawsuit in Texas seeking to “protect” himself from a father with a criminal record that included 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 for a name change, court documents show. A name change petition was filed on Brink’s behalf by his legal guardians at the time.

“Minor wishes to protect himself and his future from any ties to his birth father and his criminal history. The father has had no contact with minors for several years,” the petition filed in Bexar County, Texas reads.

The suspect’s father, Aaron Brink, is a mixed martial arts fighter and porn actor with an extensive criminal history, including battery convictions against the alleged shooter’s mother, Laura Voepel, both before and after the suspect was born, show the 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 for supervised visits with the child.

Aaron Brink told San Diego-based CBS affiliate KFMB-TV, who 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 hadn’t had much contact with his son but had taught them to fight, “praising” Aldrich for his violent behavior at an early age. He added that he is sorry for letting Aldrich down. Brink said that “there is no excuse to go out and kill people. If you’re killing people, something’s wrong. That’s not the answer.

One of the suspect’s grandparents is Randy Voepel, an incumbent Congressman 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 her time in the state legislature.

Voepel, a Republican, had a record of mixed voting on LGBTQ bills. He likened the January 6 attack on the United States Capitol to the Revolutionary War, calling it the “first shots fired against tyranny.” In response to the criticism, he later said he did not “condone or support the violence and lawlessness that has taken place”.

Randy Voepel did not return calls seeking comment. It is unclear how close he was to the suspect.

Aldrich’s request for a name change came months after Aldrich was apparently targeted for online bullying. A June 2015 website post attacking a teenager named Nick Brink suggests they may have been bullied in high school. The post included photos similar to those of the suspect he shot and ridiculed Brink for 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 man being harassed”.

The name change and bullying were first reported by The Washington Post.

Read more about shooting Colorado Springs

Local and federal authorities declined to say why the hate crime charges were being considered. District Attorney Michael Allen noted that murder charges will carry the most severe penalty – life in prison – while crimes of bias are eligible for probation. He also said it was important to show the community that bias-motivated crimes were not tolerated.

Aldrich was arrested last year after her mother said her son threatened her with a homemade bomb and other weapons. Ring doorbell video obtained by The Associated Press shows Aldrich arriving at his mother’s doorstep with a large black bag on the day of the 2021 bomb threat, telling her the police were nearby and adding, ‘Here’s where I stand . Today I die.

Authorities at the time said no explosives had been found, but gun control advocates questioned why police hadn’t used Colorado’s “red flag” laws to seize guns that Aldrich’s mother says her son had.

Allen declined to answer questions related to the 2021 bomb threat after Wednesday’s court hearing.

The weekend assault occurred at a nightclub known as a sanctuary for the LGBTQ community in this mostly conservative city of about 480,000 about 70 miles (110 kilometers) south of Denver.

Longtime patron of Club Q those affected said the club’s reputation made them a target. In a video statement, Ed Sanders said he thought about what he would do in a mass shooting following the 2016 massacre of 49 people at the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida..

“I think this incident underscores the fact that LGBT people are to be loved,” said Sanders, 63. “I want to be resilient. I am a survivor. I’m not going to be taken out by a sick person.

Authorities said Aldrich used a long rifle and was stopped by two patrons of the club, including Richard Fierro, who told reporters he took a gun from Aldrich, hit them with it and pinned them down with l another person’s help until the police arrive.

The victims there were Raymond Green Vance, 22, a Colorado Springs native who was saving up money for his own apartment; Ashley Paugh, 35, a mother who helped find homes for foster children; Daniel Aston, 28, who had worked at the club as a bartender and entertainer; Kelly Loving, 40, whose sister described her as “caring and sweet”; and Derrick Rump, 38, another club bartender known for his wit.


Bedayn is a corps member of the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a non-profit national service program that places reporters in local newsrooms to report on hidden issues.


Associated Press reporters Bernard Condon in New York, Jake Bleiberg in Dallas, Kathleen Ronayne in Sacramento, Matthew Brown in Billings, Montana, Stefanie Dazio in Los Angeles, and news researcher Rhonda Shafner in New York contributed.

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