COLORADO SPRINGS —The bruised and battered 22-year-old accused of killing five people and wounding at least 17 others Saturday night at an LGBTQ club in Colorado Springs weakly muttered answers to a judge’s questions and never rose from a chair during their first court appearance Wednesday.
Anderson Lee Aldrich, head slumped on shoulder, appeared clad in a bright yellow smock in court via video uplink from the El Paso County jail. Aldrich was ordered held without bond during the first advisement hearing.
Aldrich, their face apparently swollen, muttered a delayed “yes” and “no” in a weak, somewhat-garbled voice when asked questions by El Paso County Judge Charlotte Ankeny.
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The suspected shooter appeared with two public defenders and never rose during the brief hearing, which lasted four minutes. Details of the case were not discussed in court. Aldrich’s attorneys stood in front of Aldrich during the hearing, apparently blocking the suspect’s view.
The next court hearing was scheduled for Dec. 6.
Aldrich is being held on suspicion of five counts of first-degree murder after deliberation and five counts of committing a bias-motivated crime. A first-degree murder conviction in Colorado carries a penalty of life in prison without the possibility of parole. The death penalty in Colorado was abolished by the legislature and Gov. Jared Polis in 2020.
The charges are arrest-only accusations. Prosecutors will file formal charges in the coming days, and it’s likely the suspect will face many more criminal counts. The El Paso County District Attorney’s Office has asked that court documents in the case be sealed.
Advisement hearings in El Paso County are routinely held through video uplink. Aldrich was treated for two days at a hospital for injuries sustained when Club Q patrons stopped the shooting. The suspect was transferred to the jail on Tuesday.
Aldrich is accused of opening fire late Saturday night at Club Q, a two-decade-old LGBTQ club northeast of downtown Colorado Springs, killing Derrick Rump, 38; Daniel Aston, 28; Ashley Paugh, 35; Kelly Loving, 40; and Raymond Green Vance, 22.
A person by the same name as Aldrich was arrested in June 2021 on felony menacing and kidnapping charges after a woman called El Paso County authorities to report her son “was threatening to cause harm to her with a homemade bomb, multiple weapons and ammunition,” according to the county sheriff’s office.
A judge dismissed the case because the witnesses, Aldrich’s grandparents and mother, wouldn’t cooperate with the prosecution. The case was then subsequently sealed. “There is absolutely nothing there, the case was dropped, and I’m asking you either remove or update the story,” Aldrich said in a voice message left for an editor at The Colorado Springs Gazette in August, according to The Associated Press. “The entire case was dismissed.”
Authorities have not discussed the June 2021 arrest because the case is sealed. The Colorado Sun and other media outlets have petitioned to unseal the case.
The suspected shooter changed their name from Nicholas Franklin Brink in 2016, Texas court records show. “Minor wishes to protect himself and his future from any connections to birth father and his criminal history. Father has had no contact with minor for several years,” said the petition filed in Bexar County, Texas.
The criminal record of the suspect’s father, Aaron F. Brink, includes convictions for battery against Aldrich’s mother, Laura Voepel, both before and after Aldrich was born, state and federal court records show. A 2002 misdemeanor battery conviction in California resulted in a protective order that initially barred Brink from contacting Voepel or her child, except through an attorney, but was later modified to allow monitored visits with the child.
A few blocks away from the courthouse Wednesday morning, hundreds of people stood on the steps of the Colorado Springs City Council building, which was draped in a massive rainbow flag in honor of the Club Q shooting victims. The flag was a section of a 1.25-mile flag made in Key West, called the “Sea to Sea” flag and unfurled during Pride celebrations in 2003. The crowd spilled onto the street and firetrucks blocked off a section of the road for the ceremony.
Those gathered praised Richard Fierro, an Army veteran who tackled the suspect to the ground after the alleged shooter opened fire inside the club. Green, the youngest of the five people killed in the shooting, was Fierro’s daughter’s boyfriend.
Police identified a second clubgoer, Thomas James, as having assisted in stopping the shooting. The U.S. Navy said James, an information systems technician second class, is being treated for injuries at a hospital in Colorado Springs.
“As I see this flag above me, what I remember is the many times that this building chose to deny the existence of the LGBTQ community,” said state Rep. Leslie Herod, a Denver Democrat who grew up in Colorado Springs, speaking to the rallygoers. “And it takes a tragedy like this to have a rainbow LGBTQ flag (on) this building. It’s wrong.”
The crowd roared.
“As we mourn, as we are in pain, we want to also celebrate the beautiful people of Colorado Springs that care and love for one another,” said Herod, a Denver mayoral candidate and the first openly LGBTQ Black state lawmaker elected in Colorado. “The beautiful people that have stood by the survivors of Club Q, folks who showed up and took down the mass murderer. Thank you.”
El Paso County District Attorney Michael Allen, speaking to reporters after the hearing Wednesday, did not specify the number of charges that his office plans to file against Aldrich, but said the charges will be filed on or before the defendant’s next court date.
Asked about Aldrich’s competency to stand trial, Allen said “it appears that he is physically competent.” In court proceedings, competency refers to a defendant’s ability to understand court cases and to assist in their defense.
Allen said he will continue to ask that Aldrich be held without bond.
Allen said the defendant’s gender identification as nonbinary in court documents will not impact the way he prosecutes the case.
“In every single murder case that I’ve prosecuted, which is more than I care to talk about, I’ve referred to every one of those as ‘defendants’ and that’s what I will do in this case,” Allen said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
CORRECTION: This story was updated at 8 a.m. on Friday, Dec. 9, 2022 to correct a source’s error about the outcome of the 2021 case against Anderson Aldrich. The case was dismissed by an El Paso County judge because witnesses, Aldrich’s grandparents and mother, wouldn’t cooperate with the prosecution.