23 November 2022

Colorado gay club shooting suspect is non-binary, lawyers say

23 November 2022

A suspect facing possible hate crime charges over the fatal shooting of five people at a gay nightclub in the US state of Colorado is non-binary, the suspect’s defence team said.

In court papers filed on behalf of Anderson Lee Aldrich on Tuesday, public defenders refer to the suspect in the Colorado Springs shooting as “Mx Aldrich”, noting in footnotes that Aldrich, 22, is non-binary and uses they/them pronouns.

The motions deal with issues like unsealing documents and evidence gathering, not Aldrich’s identity.

Aldrich, who was beaten into submission by patrons during Saturday night’s shooting at Club Q, was scheduled to appear in court by videolink from jail for the first time on Wednesday.

The motive in the shooting is still under investigation, but authorities said Aldrich faces possible murder and hate crime charges.

Hate crime charges would require proving that the suspect was motivated by bias, such as against the victims’ actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.

The charges against Aldrich are preliminary, and prosecutors have not yet filed formal charges. Aldrich is represented by Joseph Archambault, a chief trial deputy with the state public defender’s office.

It was also revealed that 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 their grandparents, who were their legal guardians at the time.

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.

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.

Aldrich was arrested last year after their mother reported her child threatened her with a homemade bomb and other weapons.

Doorbell video obtained by The Associated Press shows Aldrich arriving at their mother’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’s “red flag” laws to seize the weapons Aldrich’s mother said her child possessed.

The weekend assault took place at a nightclub known as a sanctuary for the LGBTQ community in a mostly conservative city of about 480,000, roughly 70 miles south of Denver.

The attack was halted by two club patrons including Richard Fierro, who told reporters that he took a handgun from Aldrich, hit them with it and pinned them down with help from another person until police arrived.

The victims were Raymond Green Vance, 22; Ashley Paugh, 35; Daniel Aston, 28; Kelly Loving, 40; and Derrick Rump, 38.

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