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Defense: Colorado gay club shooting suspect is nonbinary

Colorado Springs Shooting
Posted at 9:31 AM, Nov 23, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-23 11:56:53-05

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — The alleged gunman 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 the suspect's identity and there was no elaboration about it.

The suspect, 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 they faces possible murder and hate crime charges.

Hate crime charges would require proving that the gunman was motivated by bias, such as against the victims’ actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. The charges against the suspect are preliminary, and prosecutors have not yet filed formal charges. The suspect 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 the suspect'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 their mother.

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 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.

The suspect's request for a name change came months after they were apparently targeted by online bullying.

The suspect was tackled and beaten by bar patrons during the attack that left 17 other people with gunshot wounds. The suspect faces five murder charges and five charges of committing a bias-motivated crime causing bodily injury, online court records showed.

The suspect was released from the hospital and was being held at the El Paso County jail, police said.