Suspect in killing of 5 at Colorado club held without bail

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) – The shooter facing possible hate crime charges in the fatal shooting of five people A Colorado Springs gay nightclub suspect was ordered held without bail during an initial court appearance Wednesday while reclined in a chair.

Anderson Lee Aldrich, 22, was seen in a short video from jail with injuries to his face and head. Aldrich appeared to want requests from defense attorneys and gave a vague response when asked by El Paso County Court Judge Charlotte Ankeny to release their names.

The suspect was assaulted by patrons During the Saturday night shoot at Club Q and was released from the hospital on Tuesday. A motive for the shooting is still under investigation, but authorities said Aldrich could face murder and hate crime charges.

Hate crime charges would require proving that the shooter was motivated by bias against the victims’ actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. The charges against Aldrich are preliminary, and prosecutors have yet to file formal charges.

Defense attorneys said late Tuesday that the suspect is non-binary and that in court filings the suspect is “Mx. Aldrich.” Lawyers’ footnotes state that Aldrich is non-binary and uses the pronouns they/them.

Prosecutor Michael Allen repeatedly referred to the suspect as “he” at a post-trial press conference and said the suspect’s gender did not change anything about the case in his opinion. Allen said Aldrich is “physically fit” to face the charges.

Ankeny set the next hearing for December 6.

Officials said 11 of the 17 people who suffered gunshot wounds in the attack were being treated in hospital by late Wednesday.

Aldrich’s name was changed six years ago as a teenager, after a legal petition was filed in Texas asking Aldrich’s father, who has a criminal history including domestic violence against his mother, to “protect himself.”

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Aldrich was known as Nicholas Franklin Brink until 2016. A few weeks before turning 16, Aldrich successfully petitioned a Texas court for a name change, court records show. A petition for a name change was filed on Brink’s behalf by his legal guardians.

“The minor wishes to protect himself and his future from any connection to the birth father and his criminal history. The petition, filed in Bexar County, Texas, said the father had not had contact with a minor in years.

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

Aaron Brink told San Diego CBS affiliate KFMB-TV, that he was shocked to learn of Aldrich’s involvement in the charge. He said his first reaction was to question why Aldrich was in a gay bar. Brink said he had little contact with his child, but taught them to fight by “praising” Aldrich for violent behavior at an early age. He said he regrets letting Aldrich down. “There is no excuse for killing people,” Brink said. If people are being killed, there is something wrong. That is not the answer. “

One of the suspect’s grandfathers is outgoing California state lawmaker Randy Voepel. The suspect’s mother, Laura Woppel, identified Randy Woppel as her father on her Facebook page in a 2020 post about his time in the state legislature.

Voepel, a Republican, had a mixed voting record on LGBTQ bills. He compared the January 6 attack on the US Capitol to the Revolutionary War and called it “the first shot fired against tyranny.” In response to criticism, he later said he “did not condone the violence and lawlessness that took place”.

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

Aldrich’s request for a name change comes months after Aldrich was apparently targeted by online harassment. A website posted from June 2015 where a teenager named Nick Brink was assaulted suggests they were bullied in high school. Photographs of the shooting suspect were included, and Brink mocked them for their weight, lack of money and interest in Chinese cartoons.

In addition, a YouTube account was opened in Brink’s name, featuring animations of “Asian homosexual gets molested”.

Local and federal authorities have denied why they are considering hate crime charges. District Attorney Michael Allen noted that the murder charges carry the harshest penalty — life in prison — but bias crimes are eligible for probation. He also said it is important to show the community that bias crimes will not be tolerated.

Aldrich was arrested last year after their mother reported her child had threatened her with a homemade bomb and other weapons, police said. Ring Doll Bell video obtained by The Associated Press shows Aldrich arriving at their mother’s front door carrying a large black bag on the day of the 2021 bomb threat, telling her the police are nearby and saying, “This is where I’m standing. Today I die.”

Authorities said at the time that no explosives were found, but gun control advocates questioned why police did not use Colorado’s “red flag” laws to seize the weapons allegedly in Aldrich’s possession.

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

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The weekend attack took place in a nightclub known as a sanctuary for the LGBTQ community in this mostly conservative city of 480,000, about 70 miles (110 km) south of Denver.

A longtime Club Q patron The man who was shot said the club’s reputation made it a target. In a video statement, Ed Sanders said he wondered what he would have done in a mass shooting after 49 people were massacred at the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida in 2016..

“This event emphasizes that LGBT people should be loved,” said Sanders, 63. “I want to be resilient. I am a survivor. I will not be taken out by some patient. “

Authorities said Aldrich wielded a long rifle and was stopped by two club patrons, including Richard Fierro, who told reporters he took a handgun from Aldrich, assaulted them and pinned them down with the help of another man until police arrived.

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

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Bedane is a staff member for the America Statehouse News Initiative for the Associated Press/Report. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on confidential issues.

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Associated Press reporters Kathleen Ronayne in Sacramento, Matthew Brown in Billings, Montana, Amy Hanson in Helena, Montana, Stefanie Dazio in Los Angeles, Adam Beam in Sacramento, California, Bernard Condon in New York, Dalla Bleiberg and Jake Rondah news researchers in New York contributed from

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