New details have emerged in the case against Anderson Aldrich, a suspect in the fatal LGBTQ nightclub shooting, that has raised more questions about a possible motive for the attack that left five dead and 18 injured in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
The day before Aldrich made his first appearance in court, attorneys for the 22-year-old filed a filing showing that Aldrich identifies as non-binary and uses their pronouns.
This information is among the few pieces collected about Aldrich.
Scattered elements of the suspect’s biography have emerged — a name change, a 2021 arrest in which their mother accused him of making a homemade bomb threat, and a family connection to a California lawmaker. But much is still unknown.
Little has appeared about Aldrich online or on social media, and only the suspect’s father, who has been estranged from him since the Colorado shooting, has spoken publicly.
Aldrich appeared via video Wednesday from the El Paso County Jail during a six-minute hearing after he was released from the hospital following Saturday’s attack. An order was issued to hold them without bail. No formal charges have yet been filed, and the next court hearing is scheduled for December 6.
The suspect only spoke while answering the judge’s questions. They said their name out loud, “Anderson Aldrich,” and answered yes when the judge asked them if they had watched the video about their constitutional rights in this case.
Aldrich was arrested on suspicion of murder and bias crimes — the Colorado term for hate crimes — police said, but officials have not determined what caused the shooting.
Legal experts say Aldrich’s gender identity has no bearing on whether hate crime charges can be brought.
A spokesperson for the Colorado 4th Judicial District Attorney’s Office declined to comment on whether Aldrich’s gender identity would disqualify them from any charges related to the fatal shooting, and said, “The evidence will direct the appropriate charges.”
Attorneys for Aldrich requested that the arrest warrant be unsealed, but did not respond to further requests for comment.
Aldrich was born on May 20, 2000, to Laura Voebel and Aaron Brink in California, according to Orange County court records. The following year, Brink filed for divorce, and Phoebe was granted full custody of their child, without granting visitation rights to Brink.
In the following years, the Aldrichs moved with their mother to Texas and then to Colorado, sometimes living with their maternal grandmother. They also have a younger brother, according to Voepel’s Facebook page.
Aldrich is the grandson of California Representative Randy Voeppel (R-Santi), an aide to the lawmaker told the Times Monday.
The outgoing state representative had previously allied himself with the Tea Party movement and later drew criticism for comments that likened the January 6 insurrection at the US Capitol to the shooting of “Lexington and Concord” in the Revolutionary War. The aide said he declined to comment further about his grandson on Monday.
Court records show that Aldrich’s parents had criminal records. Laura Voeppel was found guilty of a reduced charge of criminal mischief in San Antonio and sentenced to five years of probation, according to court documents.
Aldrich’s father, Brink, was arrested on drug charges and other crimes. Brink was an avid MMA fighter, according to the Colorado Springs Gazette. He appeared in an episode of the reality TV series “Intervention,” according to his IMDb page.
Court records in Bexar County, Texas, show that Aldrich filed to officially change his name six years earlier to Anderson Lee Aldrich. The application was approved on May 4, 2016.
According to the Associated Press, the name-change petition said Aldrich wanted to protect their future “from any connections to his father and his criminal history. The father had no contact with the minor for several years.”
The Washington Post reported that Aldrich had endured a “vicious bout of cyberbullying”.
The lawyer who represented the family in the case did not respond to questions from The Times.
said Christine Brody, attorney and president of the National Trans Bar Assn. , that regardless of Aldrich’s gender identity, “one’s membership in a protected group in no way precludes the possibility that the crime committed by the individual is motivated by hate”.
“The reality is that regardless of this individual’s motives, the reality is that there are extremists out there speaking from pulpits and broadcasting from megaphones inciting this violence and saying things like, ‘I won’t cry’ or that LGBTQ people should be tied up and shot in the back of the head. “Whether or not this turns out to be the motive behind this attack, this kind of statement is beyond dangerous.”
The New York Times reported that Brink said his ex-wife told him Aldrich had changed his name out of embarrassment that Brink was their father and that Aldrich had died.
But months earlier, Aldrich called Brink. The conversation turned into an argument, with Aldrich threatening to hit Brink.
Brink, who identifies as a religious and conservative Republican, told the newspaper that he expressed his disapproval of gay people when Aldrich was younger, but expressed sympathy for the families of the shooting victims.
Aldrich was arrested in June 2021 in suburban Colorado Springs, where they were living with their mother at the time, after Voebel reported that Aldrich threatened her with a “homemade bomb, multiple weapons, and ammunition,” according to the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office.
The incident ended in a standoff with deputies and the eviction of nearby homes, but officials said they found no explosives after Aldrich’s arrest.
It happened at the home of Leslie Bowman, who was renting a room to Aldrich’s mother. Bowman shared videos from her Ring security camera with The Times showing Aldrich – who she said was passed by Andy – entering her home.
In the video, Aldrich said, “The police cordoned off that house. This is where I stand, okay?… I die today.”
Phoebe replied, “What’s going on?”
Aldrich replied, “They don’t give a damn about me anymore, obviously.”
In another video that Bowman recorded for a Facebook live broadcast that Bowman said Aldrich posted during the confrontation, Aldrich is seen wearing what appears to be a helmet and body armor.
“This is your son,” Aldrich said on the recorded live broadcast. “If they violate, Emma… they will explode to hell!”
In the final video from the incident, Aldrich is seen leaving Bowman’s house about three hours later with his hands in the air and no longer wearing a helmet or body armor. A report from the sheriff’s office said Aldrich was arrested without issue. However, the charges related to the accident were later dropped.
There is also no public record that police or relatives attempted to enact a “red flag” law in Colorado after the arrest, which could have allowed authorities to confiscate any weapons or ammunition in Aldrich’s possession, or prevent them from purchasing any, at least temporarily.
Aldrich’s mother moved out of the room she was renting about two days after the arrest, Bowman said, and neither Voepel or Aldrich has kept up since. At the time, the Aldrichs lived about a mile away with their grandparents, Bowman said, but they visited their mother often. She said the teenager was never talkative and that Phoebe and Aldrich often watched movies together.
They “came over from time to time, sometimes once or twice a week,” Bowman said. She described Aldrich as “very quiet”.
There was only one other incident, she said, in which Aldrich became aggressive, getting in her face and slamming the door on her after a falling out between Bowman and Phoebe in early 2020. But Bowman said. Aldrich did not become physically violent, and reverted to the protection of their mother. Bowman said she didn’t know if Aldrich, who was 20, was at school or work.
Bowman said she found it hard to believe that Aldrich identifies as non-binary.
“I only knew him as him/him. Laura only referred to him that way, as ‘my son,’” Bowman said. “There was nothing other than the pronouns he/she referring to in the masculine.”
Bowman said she is still concerned about the initial charges against Aldrich being dropped.
“In a serious incident like this, there has to be at least some kind of plea bargain, just something, that has to be kept.” [them] on the radar.”
In the months leading up to the shooting, Aldrich’s mother had posted to a Facebook group for women in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, asking for help.
I asked in February for recommendations for a “trauma therapist/PTSD,” writing that he was for “21,” the same age as Aldrich at the time.
After nearly three months, she asked if anyone could refer her baby boy—who she described as “6’6” tall and hitting like a freight train—to a private boxing trainer.
“Can’t find a good gym or anyone serious,” she wrote. Her baby, the post said, “has made massive changes in his life and he needs this!”
Times staff writers Hannah Wiley and Terry Castleman contributed to this report.