Thu. Dec 1st, 2022

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 history including domestic violence against the suspect’s mother .

Anderson Lee Aldrich, 22, who faces murder and hate crime charges, was known as Nicholas Franklin Brink until 2016. Weeks before his 16th birthday, he petitioned a Texas court to change his name, court records show. The request to change the name to Brink’s was submitted by his grandparents, who were his legal guardians at the time.

“The minor wants to protect himself and his future from any ties to his biological father and his criminal past. The father has had no contact with the minor for several years,” reads the petition filed in Bexar County, Texas.

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The suspect’s father is a mixed martial artist and pornographic performer with an extensive criminal history, including battery convictions 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 conviction in California resulted in a protective order that initially barred the father, Aaron F. Brink, from contacting the suspect or his mother except through an attorney, but was later modified to allow supervised visits with the child.

The father was also sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison for importing marijuana, and while on supervised release, he violated the conditions by testing positive for illegal steroids, according to public records. Brink could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

His son’s request to change his name came months after Aldrich was apparently the target of online bullying. A post on a June 2015 website attacking a boy named Nick Brink suggests he may have been bullied in high school. The post included photos similar to those of the shooting suspect and mocked Brink for his weight, lack of money and, it said, an interest in Chinese cartoons.

In addition, a YouTube account was opened in Brink’s name that included an animation entitled “Asian gay man gets abused”.

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A bias-motivated charge will be filed if the evidence supports it: District Attorney

The motive for Saturday’s shooting at Club Q in Colorado Springs was still under investigation, but details emerging about the suspect point to a turbulent upbringing. The name change and harassment were first reported by The Washington Post.

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Aldrich was grabbed and beaten by bar patrons during the attack, which left 17 other people with gunshot wounds. He faces five counts of murder and five counts of bias-motivated assault causing bodily harm, online court records show.

Aldrich was released from the hospital and is being held in the El Paso County Jail, police said. He is scheduled to make his first court appearance Wednesday via video from jail.

He was arrested last year after his mother reported that he threatened her with a homemade 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 the police are nearby and adding, “I’m standing here. Today I die.”

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Authorities said at the time that no explosives had been found, but gun control advocates questioned why police did not use Colorado’s “red flag” laws to seize the weapon his mother said he had.

The attack happened over the weekend at a nightclub known as a haven for the LGBTQ community in this largely conservative city of about 480,000, about 70 miles (110 kilometers) south of Denver.

A longtime Q Club 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 thought about what he would have done in a mass shooting after the 2016 massacre of 49 people at the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida.

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“I think this incident highlights the fact that LGBT people need to be loved,” said Sanders, 63. “I want to be resilient. I am a survivor. I don’t want some sick person to take me out.”

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Hate crime charges would require proving that the attacker was motivated by bias, such as that 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.

Court documents detailing Aldrich’s arrest were sealed at the request of prosecutors. He is represented by Joseph Archambault, chief trial judge in the Office of the Public Defender. Lawyers from the office do not comment on the cases for the media.

Local and federal authorities declined to answer questions about why hate crime charges are being considered. District Attorney Michael Allen noted that the murder charges would carry the harshest sentence _ life in prison _ while bias crimes are eligible for probation. He also said it is important to show the community that crimes motivated by prejudice will not be tolerated.

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The attack was stopped by two club patrons, including Richard Fierro, who told reporters he took the gun from Aldrich, hit him with it and pinned him with the help of another person.

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The victims of the Colorado Springs nightclub shooting include performers, mothers, bartenders

Fierro, a former Army major who now owns a local brewery, said he was celebrating his birthday with family members when the suspect “came in shooting.” Fierro said he ran at the suspect — who was wearing some type of bulletproof vest and is described in jail records as weighing 260 pounds (118 kilograms) and 6-foot-4 (193 centimeters) — and pulled him back before viciously beating him all over until the police arrived.

His daughter’s boyfriend is among the victims.

“There are five people I couldn’t help, and one of them was my family,” he said.

Another patron who intervened 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 and recovering from unspecified injuries.

Fierro said a third person also helped and kicked the suspect in the head.

The victims were Raymond Green Vance, 22, a Colorado Springs native who was saving money to get his own apartment; Ashley Paugh, 35, a mother who helped find homes for foster children; Daniel Aston, 28, who worked at the club as a bartender and entertainer; Kelly Loving, 40, whose sister described her as “caring and sweet”; and Derrick Rump, 38, another club bartender known for his wit.