In the case of Anderson Aldrich, the suspect in the fatal LGBTQ nightclub shooting, new details have emerged, raising further questions about a possible motive for the attack that killed five and injured 18 in Colorado Springs, Colorado .
The day before Aldrich was due to appear in court for the first time, the 22-year-old’s attorneys filed a filing stating that Aldrich identified as non-binary and she/he used pronouns.
This information is among the few pieces that have been collected about Aldrich.
Scattered elements of the suspect’s biography — a name change, a 2021 arrest in which her mother accused her of threatening her with a homemade bomb, a family connection to a California lawmaker — have surfaced. But much is still unknown.
Little about Aldrich has surfaced online or on social media, and only the suspect’s estranged father has spoken publicly since the Colorado shooting.
Aldrich appeared via video from the El Paso County jail Wednesday during a six-minute hearing after being released from the hospital following Saturday’s attack. You have been successfully ordered without a deposit. No formal charges have yet been filed and the next court hearing is scheduled for 6/12.
The suspect only spoke while answering the judge’s questions. They said their names “Anderson Aldrich” aloud and answered yes when the judge asked them if they had watched the video about their constitutional rights in the case.
Aldrich was arrested on suspicion of murder and prejudice-motivated crimes – Colorado’s term for hate crimes – police said, but officials have not identified what prompted the shooting.
Legal experts say Aldrich’s gender identity does not affect whether hate crime charges could be brought.
A spokesman for the Colorado 4th Circuit Attorney’s Office declined to comment on whether Aldrich’s gender identity would bar her from charges related to the fatal shooting, saying “evidence will establish the appropriate charges.”
Aldrich’s attorneys requested that the warrant be unsealed, but did not respond to further requests for comment.
Aldrich was born on 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 given full custody of their child without Brink being granted visitation rights.
In the years that followed, Aldrich moved with her mother to Texas and then to Colorado, where she temporarily lived with her maternal grandmother. According to Voepel’s Facebook page, they also have a younger brother.
Aldrich is the grandchild of California Rep. Randy Voepel (R-Santee), an adviser to the legislature, the Times told Monday.
The outgoing national representative had previously joined the Tea Party movement and later criticized statements ranging from those of the Jan. 6 uprising at the US Capitol to the shooting at “Lexington and Concord” in the Revolutionary War. He declined to comment further on his grandson on Monday, the aide said.
Aldrich’s parents have criminal records, court filings show. Laura Voepel was found guilty in San Antonio of a reduced criminal mischief charge and sentenced to five years’ probation, according to court documents.
Brink, Aldrich’s father, was also arrested for drug offenses and other crimes. 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 six years ago, Aldrich applied to formally change her name to Anderson Lee Aldrich. The application was approved on May 4, 2016.
According to the Associated Press, a petition for the name change said that Aldrich wanted to protect her future “from any connection to her biological father and his criminal history. Father hasn’t had any contact with minors 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, attorney and chair of the National Trans Bar Assn., said that regardless of Aldrich’s gender identity, “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 no matter what that person’s motivation turns out to be, the fact is that there are extremists speaking from pulpits and broadcast microphones who are inciting this violence and saying things like ‘I would not shed tears’ or that LGBT people should be tied up and shot in the back of the head,” she said. “Whether that is the motivation for this attack or not, such statements are beyond dangerous.”
Brink said his ex-wife told him that Aldrich had changed her name out of embarrassment, that Brink was her father, and that Aldrich had died, the New York Times reported.
But then, months ago, Aldrich called Brink. The conversation escalated into an argument, during which Aldrich threatened to beat up Brink.
Brink, who identifies as a religious and conservative Republican, told the paper he disapproved of gay people when Aldrich was younger but expressed his sympathy to the families of the victims of the shooting.
Aldrich was arrested in June 2021 in the Colorado Springs suburb where she and her mother lived at the time after Voepel reported that Aldrich threatened her with “a homemade bomb, multiple guns and ammunition,” according to the sheriff’s office from El Paso County.
The incident ended in a standoff with lawmakers and the evacuation of nearby homes, but officials said they did not find any explosives after Aldrich’s arrest.
It happened at the home of Leslie Bowman, who rented a room to Aldrich’s mother. Bowman shared video from her ring security camera with The Times of Aldrich – who she said walked past Andy – entering her home.
In the video, Aldrich said: “Police have surrounded this house. Here you are, okay? … Today I die.”
Voepel replied: “What’s going on?”
“You don’t talk about me anymore, of course,” Aldrich replied.
In another video Bowman captured from a Facebook livestream that Bowman said Aldrich had posted during the standoff, Aldrich was seen wearing a helmet and body armor.
“That’s your boy,” Aldrich said on the recorded live stream. “If they break through, Ima… shoot it to hell!”
In the last ring video of the incident, Aldrich was seen leaving Bowman’s house about three hours later with his hands raised and no longer wearing a helmet or body armor. The Sheriff’s Office report states that Aldrich was arrested without issue. However, charges in the incident were later dismissed.
There is also no public record that after the arrest, police or relatives attempted to trigger Colorado’s “red flag” law, which could have allowed authorities to confiscate any guns or ammunition in Aldrich’s possession, or at least temporarily disallow them from doing so prevent them from buying guns.
Bowman said Aldrich’s mother moved out of the room she was renting about two days after the arrest and has not kept in touch with either Voepel or Aldrich since. At the time, Aldrich lived about a mile away with her grandparents but often visited her mother, Bowman said. She said the teenager is never talkative and that Voepel and Aldrich often watch movies together.
They “dropped 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, kicked her in the face and slammed the door on her after a dispute between Bowman and Voepel in early 2020. But Bowman said. Aldrich did not become physically violent, and she attributed it to her mother’s protection. Bowman said she didn’t know if Aldrich, then 20, was at school or working.
Bowman said she found it hard to believe that Aldrich identified as non-binary.
“I’ve only ever known him as him/her. Laura only ever referred to him as ‘my son,'” Bowman said. “There was never anything other than he/him pronouns and referring to him in the masculine.”
Bowman said she was still concerned that the initial charges against Aldrich were dropped.
“In an incident this serious, there should at least be some sort of pleading, just something that has to be honored [them] on the radar,” she said.
In the months leading up to the shooting, Aldrich’s mother asked for help on a Facebook group for women in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
She asked for recommendations for a “trauma/PTSD therapist” in February, writing that it was for a “21-year-old,” the same age as Aldrich at the time.
Nearly three months later, she asked if anyone could direct her child — who she described as “6ft 6 tall and hitting like a freight train” — to a private box truck.
“Can’t find a good gym or anyone serious,” she wrote. The post said her child has “made major life changes and needs them!”
Times contributors Hannah Wiley and Terry Castleman contributed to this report.