Details of the suspect who killed five people at an LGBTQ nightclub have been released
The suspect in the mass shooting at an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado was bullied as a teenager and raised by his grandmother for a time, according to a CNN photo of the suspect.
Anderson Lee Aldrich was in the care of her grandmother as her mother struggled with the arrest and a related mental health evaluation, according to court records and an interview with a family member.
The suspect’s grandmother, a relative described as her primary caregiver, declined to be interviewed by CNN.
Aldrich’s relationship with his mother appeared volatile last year when her son called police and said she had threatened him with a homemade bomb and other weapons.
No charges were filed, and the case was then sealed, leaving unanswered questions about how Aldrich avoided prosecution in a matter that could have barred him from legally owning a gun if convicted.
A little more than a year after the bomb threat, Aldrich opened fire at Club Q in Colorado Springs, killing five people and injuring more than a dozen others. Aldrich, 22, faces five counts of first-degree murder and five counts of aggravated assault causing bodily injury, according to online filings at the El Paso County District Court. The 6’4″, 260-pound suspect was hospitalized for undisclosed injuries after being grabbed by club patrons during the attack.
Aldrich was born Nicholas Brink in May 2000 and is the son of Laura Vopel and Aaron Brink, who were married in 1999. Neither parent could be reached for comment. The father filed for divorce in September 2001 in Orange County, California, citing irreconcilable differences. In her initial petition, she requested legal custody and visitation rights, but asked the court to grant Voepel full custody. Vopel said in her 2007 statement that her son had no contact with his father.
Aldrich’s father was a mixed martial artist and porn actor who spent time in federal prison for illegally importing marijuana, according to court documents, interviews and an entertainment website.
About a year before Aldrich was born, Brink pleaded guilty in 1999 to a misdemeanor charge of domestic battery and was sentenced to probation, according to San Diego County Superior Court records. Federal court records say the victim in that case is Vopel, described as his girlfriend.
Vopel, the daughter of California Assemblyman Randy Vopel, was granted sole legal and physical custody of her son in 2007. In May of that year, Vopel said in court records that she was unemployed and busy with a new baby on the way. Aldrich, who was six years old at the time.
In 2009, Aldrich’s mother received three years of probation for public intoxication and falsely reporting a crime to police. The false report conviction stems from a 2008 incident in Murrieta, California, where police responded to a reported home invasion and found Voepel in his bed with his hands and feet bound with duct tape. Initially, Voepel told police the man put a rope around her neck, tied her with tape and stabbed her in the chest. However, the next day, he admitted to being under the influence of drugs and made up the story “because he was lonely and wanted attention,” the police report said.
In 2010, Voepel underwent court-ordered mental health treatment in Riverside County, California, according to court records obtained by CNN.
Records show Voepel asked for custody of her then-10-year-old son — Aldrich was a teenager at the time. In a later filing, Voepel said her son has moved in with her and that she plans to apply for Medicare, Social Security and food stamps.
It was not known at what point Aldrich lived with her grandmother, who lived in the same areas as her daughter and granddaughter in California, Texas and Colorado, according to public records.
While in Texas, Aldrich’s mother continued to struggle with the law and mental health issues. A relative, who spoke to CNN on condition of anonymity, described Voepel as “sweet” but also having a “bumpy life.”
In 2012, he used a lighter to start a fire in his room at Baptist Medical Center in San Antonio, according to a police report. Vopel, who was rescued by a hospital worker, initially denied starting the fire, but police said security cameras showed he was the only person in his room when the fire started.
A licensed psychologist concluded that he suffered from severe borderline personality disorder and alcohol dependence, among other issues. He was originally charged with arson, but pleaded no contest to a reduced charge of criminal mischief in August 2013, according to court documents. He was sentenced to five years of community supervision.
After his mother’s troubles, Aldrich seems to have had trouble of his own with some of his peers. In 2015, he was the subject of an online bullying page on a parody website. The Wikipedia-like site features pictures of Aldrich as a teenager and uses profanity to mock her weight and accuse her of illegal activity.
The site mocked Aldrich’s grandmother’s efforts to raise money for her classmates to travel to Japan. A screenshot of the fundraising appeal reads, “Fulfill the dream of a young man who has been hit hard by his young life.” The fundraising goal was not reached, according to the announcement.
The page’s revision history shows that abusive posts about it were updated several times over a five-month period in 2015. The page, first reported by the Washington Post, is still active.
That year, before turning 16, the teenager legally changed his name to Nicholas F. Anderson changed from Brink to Lee Aldrich. A reason for the name change, first reported by The Post, was not given.
Aldrich later moved to Colorado Springs, where he lived with his grandmother. His mother lived in a rented room in a nearby house. Last year, Aldrich live-streamed a video from his mother’s Facebook page showing himself at the house during a standoff with police after a bomb threat.
Leslie Bowman, the owner of the house where the altercation took place and where Aldrich’s mother was renting a room, said she screen-recorded the video, which was later deleted and provided to CNN.
The brief video shows the angry young man, identified by Bowman as Aldrich, donning a helmet and some form of body armor and urging law enforcement to break into the house where he is hiding.
He ends the video with what appears to be a message to law enforcement outside: “So go ahead, guys! Let’s see it!”
The video did not show any officers outside the home, and it was unclear if Aldrich had a weapon.
The El Paso County Sheriff’s Office said in a news release at the time that Aldrich threatened to harm his mother with “an improvised explosive device, multiple weapons and ammunition,” and several nearby homes were evacuated.
Aldrich later surrendered to sheriff’s deputies, as shown in other video footage previously reported by CNN. The sheriff’s office said no explosives were found in the home.
It was not immediately clear how the bomb threat case was resolved, but the Colorado Springs newspaper reported that the district attorney’s office has not filed formal charges in the case. The district attorney’s office did not respond to CNN’s request for comment.
Correction: This story has been updated to reflect the suspect’s charges of first-degree murder and aggravated battery.
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