Investigation of Colorado nightclub massacre advances 2:01
(WABNEWS) — The 22-year-old accused of the mass shooting at an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs, Colorado, will be held without bond after appearing in court on Wednesday.
Anderson Lee Aldrich appeared in court, via videoconference, for the first time since the attack that left five dead and more than a dozen injured. And he answered some questions in a barely audible voice.RELATED
Aldrich, whose lawyers say he uses the pronouns “they/them” in English, acknowledged that he had seen a video about his rights and said he had no questions. The accused person could be seen sitting in a chair, with his head resting on her right shoulder, behind two defense attorneys.
Formal charges are expected to be filed at the next court hearing, set for Dec. 6, Colorado Fourth Judicial District Attorney Michael Allen said. Aldrich is expected to appear in person, he said, adding that the date is subject to change.
The preliminary charges include five counts of murder and five counts of a hate crime — elsewhere called a hate crime — causing bodily harm, according to the El Paso County Courthouse online docket.
“We will review all the evidence and make the appropriate filing decisions in a timely manner,” Allen said.
Before the hearing, Aldrich’s lawyers submitted a court filing stating that the suspect identifies as non-binary. “He uses the pronouns they / them, and for the purposes of all formal submissions, he will address them as Mx. Aldrich,” the court document states.
Asked after the hearing about the possible impact in the case of the non-binary distinction of the accused person, Allen responded: “To us, their legal definition in this proceeding is that of a accused person.” And he added: “It has no impact on the way I process this case.”
The prosecutor declined to comment on the motive for the crime or the investigation.
These have been the deadliest mass shootings in the United States 1:20
“I want them to know that we are going to be the voice of the victims in court and that we are going to fight alongside them throughout this process,” Allen said of the families of the victims.
The public defender’s office is representing Aldrich and has declined all requests for comment, citing office policy.
As the investigation and prosecution proceed, survivors and loved ones of the deceased are processing feelings of shock and grief after a fun night of drag performances and dancing turned violent at Club Q, a venue known as Space Safe for the LGBTQ community.
There have been more than 600 mass shootings in the United States so far this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive, which, like WABNEWS, defines these incidents as those in which at least four are killed or injured, not including the attacker.
Daniel Aston, Raymond Green Vance, Kelly Loving, Ashley Paugh and Derrick Rump were killed in the attack at Club Q, some while working the Saturday night shift and others enjoying the evening’s events. At least 19 other people were injured, most by gunfire, according to police.
Aldrich entered the nightclub just before midnight armed with an assault rifle and a handgun and immediately began shooting, police said.
“From the number of shots that were initially fired when he entered the club, I honestly thought that several people were shooting,” Gil Rodríguez, an assistant at the club, told WABNEWS on Monday.
The suspect was quickly disarmed and restrained by two club attendants until police arrived, which authorities say likely prevented any further deaths or injuries.
Richard Fierro, an Army veteran who was celebrating a birthday at the club with family and friends, tackled Aldrich to the ground and used his pistol to hit her repeatedly, Fierro told WABNEWS. Another person jumped in to help and pushed the rifle out of Aldrich’s reach, Fierro said.
Soon after, Aldrich was taken into custody and hospitalized. On Tuesday, the suspected person She was transported to the El Paso County Jail.
Although the murder charges will offer the longest sentencing options, Allen said he expects additional charges to follow.
“Colorado has hate crime statutes, which most people understand as hate crimes. We’re definitely looking into that, based on the facts involved in this case,” Allen said. “And if there is evidence to charge, we will absolutely charge for it as well.”
Additional charges for threats are also possible, Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser said.
“Every single person that was there at Club Q is a victim of one crime or another,” Weiser told WABNEWS on Tuesday.
“It’s really important that we’re able to honor the victims and be able to call this crime for what it really appears to be, which is a hate crime motivated by who the people were,” he added.
New details emerge about the suspected person
As authorities search for a motive for the shooting, new information about the suspect’s upbringing has come to light and questions have been raised about why previous charges against Aldrich were dropped.
Aldrich was born Nicholas Brink and legally changed his name in 2015.
That same year, Aldrich was cyberbullied on a parody website that contains photos of Aldrich and uses offensive slurs to mock the then-teenager’s weight and accuse Aldrich of engaging in illegal activities, according to a portrait of the suspect reconstructed by WABNEWS.
The page, first reported by The Washington Post, is still active.
Xavier Kraus, a neighbor of the person charged in the shooting, said he and his girlfriend lived across the hall from Aldrich and his mother until September. Kraus said they mostly played video games together, often in Aldrich’s apartment.
Aldrich occasionally expressed hateful attitudes toward people, Kraus recalled.
Kraus said he specifically remembered one time “Aldrich said out loud” that he “didn’t like or hate gay people. Using a derogatory term for them.” He added that many other “outbursts” were “racist.”
Aldrich “wasn’t someone I would have around my gay friends,” Kraus said, adding that Aldrich never mentioned being non-binary.
Aldrich was proud of the weapons in his possession, according to Kraus. When Aldrich showed him a gun once, Kraus told him, “Guns like that scare me.” Kraus recalled Aldrich telling him, “‘Brother, it’s not the guns, it’s the people you have to be afraid of,’ and that conversation hasn’t forgotten me.”
Aldrich’s mother told police he threatened her with a bomb
According to a relative, Aldrich’s primary caregiver was his grandmother, who declined WABNEWS’s request for an interview.
Aldrich ended up on her watch when her mother struggled with a series of arrests and related mental health evaluations, according to court records and an interview with a family member.
Laura Voepel, Aldrich’s mother, called police last year and reported that Aldrich had broken into the Colorado Springs house where she rented a room and threatened her with a pipe bomb.
Video obtained by WABNEWS showed Aldrich apparently railing against police during the incident and challenging them to enter the home.
“I’ve got the f*******s outside, look at that, they’re targeting me,” Aldrich says in the video, pointing the camera at a window covered with blinds. “See that over there? The fucking f******s have their fucking rifles out.”
Later in the video, Aldrich says, “If they come in, I’m going to bust it.”
The video ends with Aldrich delivering what appears to be a message to law enforcement waiting outside: “So, um, go ahead and get in there guys! Let’s see.”
The video does not show any officers outside the home, and it is not clear from the video if Aldrich had any weapons in the home.
Several hours after the initial police call, the local sheriff’s department’s crisis bargaining unit managed to get Aldrich to leave the house. Authorities did not find any explosives at the site, the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office said.
Aldrich was arrested and booked into the El Paso County jail on two counts of felony menacing and three counts of first-degree kidnapping, according to a 2021 press release from the sheriff’s office.
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. The district attorney’s office did not respond to WABNEWS’s request for comment.
Aldrich bought the two guns brought to Club Q Saturday night, law enforcement sources told WABNEWS this week. But it’s unclear if the assault rifle and pistol were purchased before or after the 2021 case.
Aldrich’s arrest in connection with the bomb threat would not have shown up on background checks because the case was never tried, the charges were dropped and the records were sealed. It is unclear what prompted the sealing of the records.
“We are a city of mourning,” says the mayor
The shooting happened days before the Thanksgiving holiday, some families who were planning reunions are now reeling from the impact of the violence.
“We are a city of mourning, but we are a city in recovery,” Mayor John Suthers told WABNEWS on Tuesday. “The only message we have to get across is that the actions of this one individual…do not define our community. What should define our community is how we respond to them.”
Residents, survivors and loved ones of victims have supported each other through vigils, ceremonies and financial contributions, Suthers said.
“(The Q Club) was really a safe haven, and we want to make sure that those kinds of things continue to exist in the future,” Suthers said.
A Thanksgiving dinner for the LGBTQ community, which used to be held at Club Q, will be held at Pikes Peak Metropolitan Community Church, KRDO reportedWABNEWS affiliate.
Jason Plata, a representative for the church, called Thursday dinner a space “to share with others and be able to remember our friends we’ve lost and some of our friends who are still struggling.”
A survivor named Anthony, who did not want to give his last name, said that while “the community is strong, and we will get through it,” he now feels insecure.
“I’m going to be uncomfortable going anywhere for a long time,” Anthony said during a news conference while still hospitalized Tuesday, KRDO reported.
When asked what he would say to the person accused of shooting, Anthony said he would tell Aldrich, “Why don’t you meet someone and get to know their true heart before you pass judgment?”
The suspected person, Anthony said, “harmed many pure and true hearts, and I don’t know if they will ever be the same again.”
— Andy Rose, Holly Yan, Jeremy Harlan, Majlie de Puy Kamp, Curt Devine, Scott Glover and Sara Smart contributed reporting.