COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — The alleged shooter facing possible hate crime charges in the fatal shooting of five people at a Colorado Springs gay nightclub is nonbinary, the suspect’s defense team says in court filings.
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 nonbinary and uses they/them pronouns. The motions deal with issues like unsealing documents and evidence gathering, not Aldrich’s identity and there was no elaboration about it.
Aldrich, who was beaten into submission by patrons during Saturday night’s shooting at Club Q, was scheduled to appear in court for the first time Wednesday by video from jail. The motive in the shooting was still under investigation, but authorities said Aldrich faces possible murder and hate crime charges.
Hate crime charges would require proving 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. Aldrich is represented by Joseph Archambault, a 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 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, court records show. A petition for the name change was submitted on Brink’s behalf by their grandparents, who were their legal guardians at the time.
“Minor wishes to protect himself and his future from any connections to birth father and his criminal history. Father has had no contact with minor 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 battery against the alleged shooter’s mother, Laura Voepel, both before and after the suspect was born, state and federal court records show. 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 monitored visits with the child.
The father also was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in custody for the importation of marijuana and while on supervised release 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 posting from June 2015 that attacked a teen named Nick Brink suggests they may have been bullied in high school. The post included photos similar to ones of the shooting suspect and ridiculed Brink over their weight, lack of money and what it said was an interest in Chinese cartoons.
Additionally, a YouTube account was opened in Brink’s name that included an animation titled “Asian homosexual gets molested.”
The name change and bullying were first reported by The Washington Post.
Court documents laying out Aldrich’s arrest were sealed at the request of prosecutors. Aldrich was released from the hospital and was being held at the El Paso County jail, police said.
Local and federal authorities have declined 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 — whereas 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 halted by two club patrons including Richard Fierro, who told reporters that he took a handgun from Aldrich, hit them with it and pinned them down with help from another person until police arrived.
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