Anderson Aldrich: Fragments of a troubled young life emerge, but mysteries remain

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New details have emerged in the case of Anderson Aldrich, the suspect in the deadly LGBTQ nightclub shooting, raising further questions about a possible motive in the attack that left five dead and 18 injured in Colorado Springs, Colo .

The day before Aldrich was scheduled to appear in court for the first time, the 22-year-old’s lawyers filed a petition explaining that Aldrich identifies as non-binary and uses she/them pronouns.

That information is one of the few bits gathered on Aldrich.

Scattered elements of the suspect’s biography — a name change, a 2021 arrest in which their mother accused them of threatening her with a homemade bomb, a family connection to a California lawmaker — have emerged. But much is still unknown.

Little has surfaced about Aldrich online or on social media, and only the suspect’s estranged father has spoken publicly since the Colorado shooting.

Aldrich appeared via video Wednesday from the El Paso County Jail at a six-minute hearing after being released from the hospital following Saturday’s attack. They were held without bail. No formal charges have yet been filed and the next hearing is scheduled for December 6.

The suspect spoke only while answering the judge’s questions. They said their name out loud, “Anderson Aldrich,” and answered yes when the judge asked if they had watched the video about their constitutional rights in this case.

Aldrich was arrested on suspicion of murder and bias-motivated crimes — Colorado’s term for hate crimes — police said, but officials have not determined what prompted the shooting.

Legal experts say Aldrich’s gender identity has no bearing on whether hate crime charges can be brought.

A spokesman for Colorado’s 4th Judicial Circuit district attorney’s office declined to comment on whether Aldrich’s gender identity would disqualify them from all charges related to the fatal shooting, saying “evidence will lead to the appropriate charges.”

Aldrich’s lawyers requested that the warrant be unsealed but did not respond to further requests for comment.

Shooting suspect Anderson Aldrich in their booking photo.

(Colorado Springs Police Department)

Aldrich was born May 20, 2000 to Laura Voepel and Aaron Brink in California, according to Orange County court records. The following year, Brink filed for divorce, and Voepel was awarded full custody of their child, with no visitation rights to Brink.

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In the following years, Aldrich moved with their mother to Texas and then to Colorado, where they sometimes lived with their maternal grandmother. They also have a younger brother, according to Voepel’s Facebook page.

Aldrich is the grandchild of California Councilman Randy Voepel (R-Santee), an aide to the legislature, told The Times on Monday.

The outgoing state representative previously joined the Tea Party movement and was later criticized for comments that compared the January 6 riot at the Capitol to the shots fired at “Lexington and Concord” in the Revolutionary War. He declined to comment further on his grandchild on Monday, the aide said.

Aldrich’s parents have a criminal record, according to court records. Laura Voepel was found guilty of a reduced charge of criminal mischief in San Antonio and sentenced to five years of probation, according to court documents.

Brink, Aldrich’s father, was also arrested on drug and other crime charges. Brink was an MMA fighter, according to the Colorado Springs Gazette. According to his IMDb page, he appeared in an episode of the reality TV series “Intervention.”

Court records in Bexar County, Texas show that Aldrich filed six years ago to formally change their name to Anderson Lee Aldrich. The request was approved on May 4, 2016.

According to the The US Express News, a petition calling for the name change said Aldrich wanted to protect their future “from any connection to the biological father and his criminal history. Father has had no contact with a minor for several years.”

The Washington Post reported that Aldrich endured a “particularly vicious bout of online bullying.”

The lawyer representing the family in the case did not respond to questions from The Times.

Kristen Browde, an attorney and president of the National Trans Bar Assn., said that regardless of Aldrich’s gender identity, “an individual’s membership of a protected group in no way precludes the possibility that the crime committed by the individual is motivated by hate.”

“The reality is that whatever this person’s motivation turns out to be, the fact is that there are extremists speaking from pulpits and broadcasting microphones inciting this violence and saying things like, ‘I wouldn’t shed tears’ or that LGBT people should be tied up and shot in the back of the head,” she said. “Whether that turns out to be the motivation for this attack or not, statements like that are beyond dangerous.”

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Brink said his ex-wife told him that Aldrich had changed their name out of embarrassment that Brink was their father and that Aldrich had died, the New York Times reported.

But months ago Aldrich called Brink. The conversation turned into an argument, with Aldrich threatening to beat up Brink.

Brink, who identifies as a religious and conservative Republican, told the paper he expressed his disapproval of gay people when Aldrich was younger, but expressed his condolences to the families of the shooting victims.

Aldrich was arrested in June 2021 in a Colorado Springs suburb where she and their mother lived at the time, after Voepel reported that Aldrich threatened her with “a homemade bomb, multiple guns and ammunition,” according to the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office.

The incident ended in a standoff with deputies and the evacuation of nearby homes, but officials said they found no explosives after Aldrich’s arrest.

It happened at the house of Leslie Bowman, who rented a room to Aldrich’s mother. Bowman shared videos from her Ring security camera with The Times showing Aldrich – who she says went past Andy – entering her home.

In the video, Aldrich said, “Police surrounded that house. This is where I stand, okay? … Today I die.”

Voepel replied, “What’s happening?”

“They obviously don’t care about me anymore,” Aldrich replied.

In another video Bowman captured from a Facebook Live stream, which Bowman said Aldrich posted during the standoff, Aldrich was seen wearing what appears to be a helmet and body armor.

“This is your boy,” Aldrich said on the recorded live stream. “If they break through, I… blow it to holy hell!”

In the final Ring video of the incident, Aldrich was seen leaving Bowman’s house about three hours later with their hands in the air and no more helmets or body armor. The sheriff’s office report said Aldrich was arrested without any issues. However, the allegations of the incident were later dismissed.

There is also no public record that police or family members attempted to trigger Colorado’s “red flag” law after the arrest, which would have allowed authorities to confiscate guns or ammunition in Aldrich’s possession, or prevent them from doing so. purchase weapons or ammunition, at least temporarily.

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Bowman said Aldrich’s mother left the room she was renting about two days after the arrest, and she hasn’t kept up with Voepel and Aldrich since. Aldrich lived with their grandparents about a mile away at the time, but often visited their mother, Bowman said. She said the teen was never talkative and that Voepel and Aldrich often watched movies together.

They “came in from time to time, sometimes once or twice a week,” Bowman said. She described Aldrich as “pretty quiet.”

She said there was only one other incident where Aldrich got aggressive, got in her face and slammed the door on her following a dispute between Bowman and Voepel in early 2020. But Bowman said. Aldrich did not become physically violent and she attributed it to protecting their mother. Bowman said she didn’t know if Aldrich, then 20, was in school or working.

Bowman said she finds it hard to believe that Aldrich identifies as non-binary.

“I have only known him as a he/him. Laura just called him that, ‘my son,'” Bowman said. “There was never anything but he/him pronouns and referring to him in the masculine.”

Bowman said she is still concerned that the initial charges against Aldrich have been dropped.

“In an incident this serious, there should at least be a plea deal, just something to keep [them] on the radar,” she said.

In the months before the shooting, Aldrich’s mother posted to a Facebook group for women in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints asking for help.

She asked for recommendations for a “trauma/PTSD therapist” in February, writing that it was for a “21-year-old,” the same age Aldrich was at the time.

Nearly three months later, she asked if someone could refer her child – whom she described as “six feet tall and like a freight train” – to a private boxing coach.

“Can’t find a good gym or anyone serious,” she wrote. The post said her child had “made huge life changes and needs this!”

Times staff writers Hannah Wiley and Terry Castleman contributed to this report.

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