COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — (AP) — The suspect in the fatal shooting of five people at a Colorado gay nightclub changed his name more than six years ago as a teenager, after filing a legal petition in Texas saying he wanted to “protect himself” from a father with a criminal background.
Anderson Lee Aldrich, 22, who faces murder and hate crime charges, was known as Nicholas Brink until 2016. Just before his 16th birthday, he asked a Texas court to change his name, according to court records. A name change petition was submitted on Brink’s behalf by his grandparents, who were his legal guardians at the time.
“The minor wishes to protect himself and his future from any connection with his biological father and his criminal history. The father has had no contact with the minor for several years,” the petition states.
The boy’s mother and father signed affidavits agreeing to the name change, according to Bexar County, Texas records.
The suspect’s father is a mixed martial arts fighter and pornographic artist with an extensive criminal history, including an assault conviction against the alleged shooter’s mother, Laura Voepel, according to state and federal court records. . The father, Aaron F. Brink, served 2½ years in prison for importing marijuana, according to public records.
The name change request came months after Aldrich was reportedly the target of online bullying. A June 2015 website posting that attacked a boy named Nick Brink suggests he may have been bullied in high school. The message included photos similar to those of the shooting suspect and ridiculed Brink over his weight, lack of money and what he said was an interest in Chinese cartoons.
Additionally, a YouTube account was opened in Brink’s name which included an animation titled “Asian Gay Gets Mugged”.
The motive for Saturday’s shooting at Club Q in Colorado Springs was still under investigation, but details about the suspect suggest a turbulent upbringing. The name change and bullying was first reported by The Washington Post.
Aldrich was tackled and beaten by bar patrons in the attack which left 17 other people shot and injured. He faces five charges of murder and five charges of committing a bias-motivated crime causing bodily harm, court records online showed.
Aldrich was released from the hospital and held in the El Paso County Jail, police said. He is due to make his first court appearance on Wednesday via video from jail.
He was arrested last year after his mother reported that he had threatened her with a pipe bomb and other weapons. Doorbell video obtained by The Associated Press shows Aldrich arriving at his mother’s front door with a large black bag on the day of the 2021 bomb threat, telling her that 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 question why police didn’t use Colorado’s ‘red flag’ laws to seize the guns that her mother says she has in her possession.
The weekend assault took place at a nightclub known as a sanctuary for the LGBTQ community in this mostly conservative city of about 480,000 people about 110 miles south of Denver.
A long-time Club Q patron who was shot in the back and thigh said the club’s reputation made him a target. Speaking in a video statement released by UC Health Memorial Hospital, Ed Sanders said he was thinking about what he would do in a mass shooting after the 2016 massacre of 49 people at gay Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida.
“I think this incident underscores the fact that LGBT people need to be loved,” said Sanders, 63, who wore a hospital gown with an oxygen tube through his nose. “I want to be resilient. I’m a survivor. I will not be taken away by a sick person.
Hate crime charges would require proof that the shooter was motivated by bias, such as against the victims’ real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. The charges against Aldrich are preliminary and prosecutors have yet to file formal charges.
Court documents establishing Aldrich’s arrest were sealed at the request of prosecutors. He is represented by Joseph Archambault, chief deputy in the office of the state’s public defender. The firm’s attorneys do not comment on cases to the media.
Local and federal authorities declined to answer questions about why hate crime charges were being considered. District Attorney Michael Allen noted that murder charges would carry the harshest sentence — life in prison — while bias crimes are eligible for probation.
“But it’s important to let the community know that we don’t condone bias-motivated crimes in this community, that we support communities that have been slandered, harassed, bullied and abused,” Allen said, adding that additional charges are possible.
The attack was stopped by two club patrons, including Richard Fierro, who told reporters he took a handgun from Aldrich, hit him with it and pinned him down with the help of a other person.
Fierro, a former army major who now owns a local brewery, said he was celebrating a birthday with family members when the suspect “came to shoot”. Fierro said he ran up to the suspect – who was wearing some sort of body armor and is described in prison records as weighing 260 pounds and 6ft 4in – and pulled him down before beat him severely until the police arrived.
Although his actions saved lives, Fierro said the deaths, including his daughter’s boyfriend, were a tragedy for Fierro and the wider community.
“There are five people I couldn’t help, one of whom was my family,” he said.
The other patron who stepped in was Thomas James, a Navy information systems technician stationed in Colorado Springs, according to a biography released by the Navy. A Navy spokesman said Tuesday that James is in stable condition, recovering from unspecified injuries.
Fierro said a third person also assisted and kicked the suspect in the head.
The victims were Raymond Green Vance, 22, a Colorado Springs native who was saving money for his own apartment; Ashley Paugh, 35, a mother who helped find homes for adopted children; Daniel Aston, 28, who had worked at the club as a bartender and entertainer; Kelly Loving, 40, who her sister described as “caring and sweet”; and Derrick Rump, 38, another club bartender known for his wit.
A law enforcement official said the suspect used an AR-15 type semi-automatic weapon. A handgun and additional ammunition magazines were also recovered. The official could not publicly discuss details of the investigation and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity.
Bedayn is a member of the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places reporters in local newsrooms to report on underreported issues.
Associated Press reporters Bernard Condon in New York, Colleen Slevin in Denver, Jake Blieberg in Dallas, Amy Forliti in Minneapolis, Matthew Brown in Billings, Montana, Jill Bleed in Little Rock, Arkansas, Stefanie Dazio in Los Angeles and the researcher Rhonda Shafner of New York contributed.
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