Colorado Springs shooting suspect makes first court appearance via video | Colorado

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The alleged shooter 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 on Wednesday, as the suspect sat slumped over in a wheelchair.

Anderson Lee Aldrich, 22, could be seen with injuries visible on their 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 their name by the 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 faced possible murder and hate crime charges.

Hate crime charges would require proving the shooter was motivated by bias, such as against the victims’ actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. The charges against the suspect are not yet formal. 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.

Defense attorneys said late on Tuesday the suspect was nonbinary. Standard court filings submitted by the defense team referred to the suspect as “Mx Aldrich” and footnotes asserted that Aldrich was nonbinary and used they/them pronouns. The charges against Aldrich are preliminary, and prosecutors have not yet filed formal charges. Ankeny set the next hearing for 6 December.

The suspect’s name was changed more than six years ago, 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.

The suspect was known as Nicholas Franklin Brink until 2016. Weeks before turning 16, they petitioned a Texas court for a name change, court records show. A petition was submitted on Brink’s behalf by grandparents who were legal guardians.

“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 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 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 two and a half 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 on Tuesday.

The suspect’s request for a name change came months after apparently being targeted by online bullying. A website posting from June 2015 that attacked a teen named Nick Brink suggests they may have been bullied in high school. The post included photos similar to ones of the shooting suspect and ridiculed Brink over their 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 the suspect’s arrest were sealed at the request of prosecutors. Aldrich was being held at the El Paso county jail, police said.

The district attorney, Michael Allen, noted that the murder charges would carry the harshest penalty – life in prison – whereas bias crimes are eligible for probation. He also said it was important to show bias-motivated crimes are not tolerated.

The suspect was arrested last year after Voepel reported her child threatened her with a homemade bomb and other weapons. Ring doorbell video obtained by the Associated Press showed Aldrich arriving at Voepel’s front door with a big black bag the day of the 2021 bomb threat, telling her the police were nearby and adding: “This is where I stand. Today I die.”

Authorities at the time said no explosives were found but gun-control advocates have asked why police did not use Colorado “red flag” laws to seize weapons Voepel says her child had.

Colorado Springs shooting suspect makes first court appearance via video | Colorado

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