COLORADO SPRINGS — The person who police say murdered 5 people and is responsible for injuring 25 others appeared in a courthouse in El Paso County, Colorado, Wednesday via video link from the county’s detention center.
Suspect Anderson Lee Aldrich, slumped in a chair in a yellow-gold prison suit and muttering answers to the judge’s questions, visibly bore the marks of the beatings inflicted by US Army veteran Major Richard Fierro and US Navy Information Systems Technician Petty Officer Second Class Thomas James both fought to disarm Aldrich.
Fierro’s daughter Kassy’s longtime friend and “loving member” of the Fierro family, 22-year-old Raymond Green Vance, was killed in the shooting. Fierro, the owner of a local microbrewery, and Petty Officer James, who was shot in combat and hospitalized, were able to disarm the suspect.
Multiple media outlets reported that another Club Q guest, a trans woman, then joined in the courageous smashing, removing a high-heeled shoe and driving the spike into the shooter’s face and head.
In a statement released on Tuesday, the US Navy confirmed James was in the hospital but added that “he is currently in stable condition and we remain hopeful that he will make a full recovery.”
Known as a deliberative hearing to inform a person suspected of a crime of the charges and also possible bail requirements, Joseph Archambault, the chief trial deputy for the Colorado State Public Defender’s Office, and Michael Bowman, another state public defender, appeared , with suspects hearing, as Judge Charlotte Ankeny scheduled the first in-person court appearance for December 6 at 8:30 am and ordered Aldrich held without bail.
In the court documents, the suspect’s defense team noted, “Anderson Aldrich is non-binary. You use she/they pronouns and for all formal purposes [court] Submissions will be addressed as Mx. Aldrich.”
The Gazette reported that after the deliberation hearing, District Attorney Michael Allen said that Aldrich’s identity as non-binary would not affect how prosecutors pursue the case.
“His legal definition in this proceeding is ‘the defendant,'” Allen said.
NBC 9 News Denver correspondent Kelly Reinke reported that a recent neighbor of the suspect said he spoke to the FBI for hours Tuesday morning. He told Reinke he told investigators that the suspect had made several hateful comments towards the LGBTQ community.
“I was just expressing that he doesn’t like the LGBTQ community,” said Xavier Kraus, a neighbor of the accused shooter. He and his girlfriend lived across from Aldrich and his mother until September. “And pretty sure at one point he’s expressed that he hates the LGBTQ community, he hates gay men.”
Kraus said he particularly remembers a time when Aldrich verbally used a derogatory term for her [LGBTQ people].” He added that many other “outbursts” were “racist.”
“That’s not the kind of person I would take with my gay friends,” he said.
Kraus told NBC 9 News that he and Aldrich became close friends over the past year. They bonded over technology and video games. Kraus added that Aldrich never mentioned being non-binary during their time together.
“If I had known what he was going to do, I would have done something. I would have said something. I just didn’t know,” Kraus said.
KFMB-TV CBS News 8 San Diego spoke to the suspect’s biological father, former federal inmate and adult porn actor Aaron Brink, 48, who told News 8, “We’re Mormons, we don’t do gay things!” He added that his ex wife called him from Colorado in 2016 to say her son Nicholas Brink had changed his name to Anderson Aldrich and killed himself.
Then, two days ago, Brink received a call from his son’s defense attorneys, telling him Aldrich was involved in a shooting at an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs, News 8 reported.
Brink said he was Mormon and his first reaction was to ask why his son was in a gay bar.
“You know Mormons are not gay. We don’t do anything gay. There are no gays in the Mormon Church. We don’t do anything gay,” Brink said.
“They started telling me about the incident, a shooting… And then I find out it’s a gay bar. I got scared, ‘Shit, is he gay?’ And he’s not gay, so I said, phew… I’m a conservative Republican,” Brink said.
He told News 8 that his ex-wife, daughter of California Rep. Randy Voepel, and son moved to Colorado around 2012.
Laura Voepel, Aldrich’s mother, had been arrested for arson and a series of probation violations, according to a portrait of the alleged shooter compiled by CNN.
CNN also reported that Voepel called the police last year and reported that Aldrich entered the Colorado Springs home where she was renting a room and threatened her with a homemade bomb.
A few hours after the first call to the police, the local sheriff’s department’s Crisis Negotiation Unit was able to get Aldrich out of the house. Authorities found no explosives in the home, the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office said.
According to a 2021 sheriff’s office press release, Aldrich was arrested and sent to the El Paso County Jail for serving two counts of threatened felony and three counts of first-degree kidnapping.
It was not immediately clear how the bomb threat case was resolved; The Colorado Springs Gazette reported that the district attorney’s office said no formal charges were filed in the case. Prosecutors did not respond to a request for comment from CNN.
Brink, who currently works as a mixed martial arts trainer, says he taught his son how to fight.
“I praised him very early on for his violent behavior. I told him it works. It’s instant and you get instant results,” Brink said.