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Bail denied in Colorado nightclub rampage

by COLLEEN SLEVIN, THOMAS PEIPERT, JESSE BEDAYN and BRITTANY PETERSON The Associated Press | November 24, 2022 at 4:07 a.m.
Supporters of Club Q head up the steps to stand under a 25-foot historic pride flag displayed on the exterior of city hall to mark the weekend mass shooting at a gay nightclub Wednesday in Colorado Springs, Colo. (AP/David Zalubowski)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- A suspect facing possible hate crime charges in the fatal shooting of five people at a Colorado Springs gay nightclub was ordered held without bail in an initial court appearance Wednesday.

Anderson Lee Aldrich, 22, could be seen slumped over in a chair with injuries visible on the suspect's face and head in a brief video appearance from jail. Aldrich appeared to need prompting by defense attorneys and offered a slurred response when asked to state a name by El Paso County Court Judge Charlotte Ankeny.

The suspect was beaten into submission by patrons during Saturday night's shooting at Club Q and released from the hospital Tuesday. 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. Prosecutors have not yet filed formal charges in the case. 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.

Defense attorneys said late Tuesday that the suspect is nonbinary and in court filings referred to the suspect as "Mx. Aldrich." The attorneys' footnotes assert that Aldrich is nonbinary and uses they/them pronouns.

Prosecutor Michael Allen repeatedly referred to the suspect as "he" during a press briefing after 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 stand charges.

Ankeny set the next hearing for Dec. 6.

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 Brink's grandparents, who were the 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 suspect'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.

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 Aldrich may have been bullied in high school. The post included photos similar to ones of the shooting suspect and ridiculed Brink over 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.

Information for this article was contributed by Bernard Condon, Jake Bleiberg, Amy Forliti, Matthew Brown, Jill Bleed, Stefanie Dazio and Rhonda Shafner of The Associated Press.

Print Headline: Bail denied in Colorado nightclub rampage

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