As the 22-year-old arrested in the deadly rampage at a Colorado Springs LGBTQ club made an initial court appearance Wednesday and was ordered held without bond, pieces of the suspect’s past are slowly emerging, suggesting a volatile upbringing and a fractured family life.
Anderson Lee Aldrich’s father said in an interview Tuesday with the CBS affiliate KFMB in San Diego that he believed Aldrich had died by suicide several years ago and that only this year did he learn otherwise.
Aaron Brink told the news station that he had mourned the loss of his child and had gone through a meltdown.
Brink said his ex-wife told him in 2016 that Aldrich was dead. Aldrich was born Nicholas Franklin Brink before a petition for a change of name was filed in 2016. (In a court filing Tuesday, Aldrich’s defense team referred to the suspect as “Mx. Aldrich,” noting in footnotes that their client is nonbinary and uses they/them pronouns. There was no further elaboration, and Aldrich’s defense lawyers could not immediately be reached for comment Wednesday.)
According to court documents filed in Bexar County, Texas, the name change was requested because Aldrich, who was turning 16, “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.” The filing was first reported by The Washington Post.
At the time, Aldrich was living in Texas with grandparents and legal guardians Pamela and Jonathan Pullen. Neither could be reached for comment Wednesday.
Aldrich’s mother, Laura Voepel, was also living in Texas. Efforts to reach her were also unsuccessful.
Brink, 48, said that he only learned Aldrich was still alive after receiving a phone call six months ago from his child. The pair argued.
He told KFMB that Aldrich was “pissed off at me,” and “wants to poke at the old man.”
The former MMA fighter who later starred in pornographic movies recalled that his ex-wife said Aldrich sought a name change because Brink was associated with the porn industry and also appeared in a 2009 episode of the A&E docuseries “Intervention.”
In the episode, Brink says he is addicted to crystal meth and is shown using drugs before members of his family encourage him to seek treatment. Brink’s own troubled childhood is profiled in the show, including his parents’ divorce and his arrest at 21 for smuggling marijuana from Mexico into the United States. He served three years in federal prison.
Brink said he divorced Aldrich’s mother not long after their child was born. Neither Voepel nor Aldrich are mentioned in the “Intervention” episode.
Brink’s criminal history also includes convictions for battery against the suspect’s mother both before and after Aldrich was born, The Associated Press reported. A 2002 misdemeanor battery conviction in California resulted in a protective order that initially barred Brink from contacting Voepel and their child except through an attorney, but that was later modified to allow monitored visits with Aldrich, according to the AP.
Brink told KFMB that he was the one who taught his child to fight.
He said he praised Aldrich “for violent behavior really early,” adding that he also said “it works. It is instant and you’ll get immediate results.”
Brink said Voepel and Aldrich moved to Colorado around 2012.
He added that he was surprised that Aldrich would have been at Club Q, where authorities say the shooter killed five people and injured 19 others with a semi-automatic rifle Saturday, because he didn’t believe his child would have gone to an LGBTQ establishment in the first place because the family is Mormon.
A spokesman for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints told NBC News that Aldrich is listed on the membership rolls, but has not been active for more than a decade.
“There’s no excuse for going and killing people,” Brink said. “If you’re killing people, there’s something wrong. It’s not the answer.”
A motive in the shooting remains unclear. Aldrich has been charged with five counts of first-degree murder and five counts of committing those crimes as part of a bias attack.
The suspect was subdued by at least two people inside the club.
Prosecutor Michael Allen said Aldrich, who appeared in court via video with injuries to the face, was “physically competent” to stand trial. The next hearing was scheduled for Dec. 6.
After court, Allen declined to answer questions from reporters related to another case involving Aldrich.
Aldrich was arrested last year after Voepel reported that her child threatened her with a homemade bomb and other weapons. Ring doorbell video obtained by the AP shows Aldrich arriving at Voepel’s front door with a big black bag the day of the 2021 bomb threat, telling her the police were nearby and adding, “This is where I stand. Today I die.”
Authorities at the time said no explosives were found, but gun control advocates have asked why police didn’t use Colorado’s “red flag” laws to seize the weapons the mother said Aldrich had.
Brink said he feels remorse that he let his child down and only learned of Aldrich’s alleged involvement in the shooting when a defense attorney contacted him.
Brink told KFMB that he loved Aldrich “no matter what” and asked people to “please forgive” his child.
Donna Mendell, Shelley Osterloh and The Associated Press contributed.