Defense: Colorado gay club shooting suspect is nonbinary

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) – The alleged shooter faces possible hate crime charges in the fatal shooting of five people in a non-binary Colorado Springs gay nightclub, the suspect’s defense team says in a court filing.

In several standard motions filed on behalf of Anderson Lee Aldrich on Tuesday, public defenders refer to the suspect as “Mx. Aldrich,” noting in footnotes that Aldrich, 22, is non-binary and uses they/them pronouns. The motions deal with issues such as unsealing documents and gathering evidence, not Aldrich’s identity and there was no elaboration on it.

Aldrich, who was beaten into submission by sponsors during the shooting on Saturday night at Club Q, is scheduled to make his first court appearance Wednesday via video from jail. The motive for the shooting was still under investigation, but authorities said Aldrich was facing possible murder and hate crime charges.

Hate crime charges would require proving that the shooter was motivated by prejudice, such as the victim’s 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 with the state public defender’s office. Lawyers from the office 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 as a teenager, after filing a legal petition in Texas seeking to “protect himself” 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 turning 16, Aldrich petitioned a Texas court for a name change, according to court records. A petition for the name change was submitted on behalf of Brink by their grandparents, who were their legal guardians at the time.

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“A minor wishes to protect himself and his future from any links with his biological father and his criminal history. Father has not had contact with young child for several years,” said the petition filed in Bexar County, Texas.

The suspect’s father is a mixed martial arts fighter and pornography performer with an extensive criminal history, including convictions for beating the alleged shooter’s mother, Laura Voepel, before and after the suspect was born, records show state and federal court shows. A 2002 misdemeanor battery conviction in California resulted in a protective order that initially barred the father, Aaron F. Brink, from contacting the suspect or Voepel except through an attorney, but was later modified to allow monitoring visits with the child.

The father was also sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison for importing marijuana and during his supervised release he violated his conditions by testing positive for illegal steroids, according to public records. Brink could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Aldrich’s request for a name change came months after Aldrich was apparently targeted by online bullying. A website posted in June 2015 that attacked a teenager named Nick Brink suggests they may have been bullied in high school. The post contained photos similar to those of the shooting suspect and mocked 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 that featured an animation titled “Asian homosexual get molested.”

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

Court documents detailing Aldrich’s arrest were sealed at the request of prosecutors. Aldrich was released from the hospital and was being held in the El Paso County jail, police said.

More about Shooting Colorado Springs

Local and federal authorities have refused to answer questions about why hate crime charges were being considered. District Attorney Michael Allen noted that the murder charges would carry the harshest penalty – life in prison – while prejudice crimes are eligible for probation. He also said it was important to show the community that crimes motivated by prejudice are not tolerated.

Aldrich was arrested last year after her mother reported that 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 with a large black bag on the day of the 2021 bomb threat, telling her the police are nearby and adding, “This is where I’m standing . Today I die.”

Authorities said at the time that no explosives were found, but gun control advocates have questioned why police did not use Colorado’s “red flag” laws to seize the weapons Aldrich’s mother says her child had.

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

Longtime Q Club Patron 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 thought about what he would do in a mass shooting after the 2016 massacre of 49 people at the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida.

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

The attack was stopped by two club patrons including Richard Fierro, who told reporters he took a handgun from Aldrich, hit him with it and pinned him down with the help of another person until police arrived.

The victims was Raymond Green Vance, 22, a native of Colorado Springs who was saving money to get 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, whom her sister described as “caring and sweet”; and Derrick Rump, 38, another club bartender known for his wit.

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Bedayn is a member of the corps of The Associated Press/Reporting for the American State News Initiative. Report to America is a non-profit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercover issues.

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Associated Press Correspondents 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 news researcher Rhonda Shafner from Contributed New York.

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