Suspect in Colorado gay club shooting arrested without bail

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado — The suspected shooter potentially charged with hate crimes in the fatal shooting of five people at a Colorado Springs gay nightclub was held without bail in a first court appearance on Wednesday as the suspect sat slumped in a chair.

Anderson Lee Aldrich, 22, appeared in a brief video appearance from prison with visible injuries to his face and head. Aldrich appeared to be prompted by defense attorneys and gave a slurred response when asked by El Paso County Court Judge Charlotte Ankeny to provide her name.

The suspect was beaten into submission by guests during Saturday night’s shooting at Club Q and was discharged from hospital on Tuesday. The motive for the shooting is still under investigation, but authorities said he may face murder and hate crime charges.

Hate crime charges would have to prove that the shooter was motivated by prejudice, such as against the victim’s actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. The charges against Aldrich are preliminary and prosecutors have not yet filed any formal charges. Aldrich is being represented by Joseph Archambault, a Senior Counsel for the District Attorney. Bureau lawyers do not comment on the cases to the media.

Defense attorneys said late Tuesday that the suspect was non-binary and identified in court documents as “Mx. Aldrich.” The attorneys’ footnotes claim that Aldrich is nonbinary and she/she uses pronouns.

Prosecutor Michael Allen repeatedly referred to the suspect as “he” during a press conference following the hearing and said that in his opinion the suspect’s gender status would not change the case. Allen said Aldrich was “physically able” to face charges.

Ankeny has scheduled the next hearing for December 6th.

Aldrich’s name was changed more than six years ago as a teenager after he filed a legal petition in Texas 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 he turned 16, Aldrich successfully petitioned a Texas court for a name change, court filings show. A name change request was made on behalf of Brink by his then legal guardians.

“Minor wants to protect himself and his future from any connection to his biological father and his criminal history. Father has not had contact with minors for several years,” reads the petition, filed in Bexar County, Texas.

The suspect’s father is a mixed martial artist and pornographic actor with an extensive criminal history, including assault convictions against the suspect’s mother, Laura Voepel, both before and after the suspect’s birth, as per state and federal law enforcement court records emerge. A 2002 misdemeanor battery misdemeanor 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 amended to allow supervised visits with the allow child.