COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado. — The alleged gunman, who was charged with hate crimes over the fatal shooting of five people at a gay nightclub in Colorado Springs, is not binary, according to the suspect’s defense team in court records.
In several standard applications filed on Tuesday on behalf of Anderson Lee Aldrich, public defenders refer to the suspect as “Mx. Aldrich,” states in footnotes that Aldrich, 22, is not binary and she/she uses pronouns. The applications address issues such as unsealing documents and collecting evidence, not Aldrich’s identity, and they were not discussed in detail.
Aldrich, who was beaten into submission by guests while filming Saturday evening at Club Q, was due to appear in court for the first time via video from jail on Wednesday. The motive of the shooting was still being investigated, but authorities said Aldrich was facing potential charges of murder and hate crimes.
Hate crime charges would have to be proven that the shooter was motivated by prejudices, such as against the actual or alleged sexual orientation or gender identity of the victims. The charges against Aldrich are preliminary, and prosecutors have not yet filed any formal charges. Aldrich is represented by Joseph Archambault, a key representative of the lawsuit in the office of the state public defender. Attorneys for the office do not comment on cases to the media.
It was also revealed on Tuesday that Aldrich’s name was changed as a teenager more than six years ago after he filed a legal lawsuit in Texas to “protect himself” from a father who had 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 filed a name change in a Texas court, court records show. A petition for the name change was filed on behalf of Brink by her grandparents, who were her legal guardians at the time.
“Minor wants to protect himself and his future from any connection with his biological father and his criminal history. Father has had no contact with minors for several years,” the petition filed in Bexar County, Texas states.
The suspect’s father is a mixed martial arts fighter and pornography artist with an extensive criminal history, including assault convictions against the alleged gunman’s mother, Laura Vöpel, both before and after the suspect’s birth, state and federal court records show. A misdemeanor conviction in 2002 in California resulted in a protective order that initially prevented father Aaron F. Brink from contacting the suspect or voepel except through a lawyer, but it was later amended to allow supervised visits with the child.
The father was also sentenced to two and a half years in prison for importing marijuana and, upon supervised release, violated his terms, according to public records, by testing positive for illegal steroids. Brink could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.
Aldrich’s request for a name change came months after Aldrich was apparently targeted by online bullying. A website post from June 2015 that attacked a teen named Nick Brink suggests he may have been bullied in high school. The post included photos similar to those of the shooting suspect, and Brink was ridiculed for her weight, lack of money, and interest in Chinese cartoons.
Additionally, a YouTube account was opened in Brink’s name, which included an animation titled “Asian homosexuals are being harassed.”
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 hospital and held in El Paso County jail, police said.
Local and federal agencies have declined to answer questions about why hate crime charges were being considered. District Attorney Michael Allen noted that the murder charge would result in the harshest sentence of life imprisonment, whereas bias could mean parole. He also said it was important to show the community that biased crimes are not tolerated.
The attack was stopped by two club guests, including Richard Fierro, who told reporters that he took a handgun from Aldrich, hit her with it and stuck it with the help of another person until police arrived.