Name changes and political connections: Colorado shooter story gets even weirder

Just who is Anderson Lee Aldrich, the suspected mass murderer of the shooting spree in Colorado Springs?

For one thing, he’s not actually Anderson Lee Aldrich, or at least he wasn’t until relatively recently. His background contains an interesting connection or two to politics, crime, and an online persona or two. And all of this raises even more questions about the decision not to prosecute him last year:

Years before he allegedly walked into a Colorado LGBTQ bar with an assault-style rifle, the man now known as Anderson Lee Aldrich had a different name, and a tumultuous past.

Until age 15, he was known as Nicholas Brink, living in San Antonio, public records show. His parents separated when he was a toddler, and when he was 12, his mother, Laura Voepel, was arrested for suspected arson, according to court documents. She was later found guilty of a lesser offense in connection with the same incident.

At age 15, he became the target of a particularly vicious bout of online bullying in which insulting accusations were posted to a website, along with his name, photos and online aliases, according to a review of the site by The Washington Post. At some point, a YouTube account was created under his name, featuring a crude, profanity-laden animation under the title, “Asian homosexual gets molested.”

For unstated reasons, just before his 16th birthday, the young man petitioned a Texas court — with two of his grandparents’ names on the document — to legally change his entire name. His mother’s name did not appear on the petition.

Five years later, Brink/Aldrich threatened to blow up the entire neighborhood because his grandparents wanted to relocate to Florida. It required a large police response, an evacuation, and resulted in multiple charges that never got pursued. To this day, no one knows why charges got dropped against a 21-year-old perp, and no one knows why the district attorney and the court sealed the records of the case.

The Post notes that disposition while offering a non-sequitur framing around the weapon:

Despite his run-in with the law, some 17 months later, Aldrich was in possession of at least one weapon, a long gun, which he allegedly used in targeting customers and employees inside a nightclub long seen as a safe haven for the city’s gay and lesbian communities.

“Despite” does a lot of heavy lifting here. Had prosecutors indicted and convicted Brink/Aldrich, he wouldn’t have been able to legally possess that weapon. (Local Fox affiliate KDVR reported yesterday that the mother refused to cooperate with prosecutors, which might explain the lack of prosecution but still leaves questions about why the records got sealed.) Had his family and/or prosecutors used Colorado’s red flag laws, they could have seized what weapons he did have and kept him from buying more through legal channels. That doesn’t mean that Brink/Aldrich couldn’t have gotten firearms illegally, but at least it would have shown some effort to use existing laws to deal with a clear threat to the community.

No one did, so the proper framing for “despite” here is this: “Despite the arrest of the subject for multiple felonies of a violent nature and the existence of red flag laws, no one took action to stop the perp when they had an opportunity to do so.”

But wait — it gets weirder. It turns out that Brink/Aldrich’s mom has a connection to California politics as well as a rap sheet of her own. Her father Randy Voepel was until recently a member of the state assembly and a fan of the January 6 protest/riot:

The gunman who allegedly killed five people at a Colorado LGBTQ club is reportedly the grandson of a Republican California lawmaker who compared the Jan. 6 attack on the US Capitol to the Revolutionary War.

Accused gunman Anderson Lee Aldrich’s mother has been identified by multiple news outlets as Laura Voepel, whose father is Randy Voepel, 71, a state assemblyman who lost his seat in the midterm elections, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported.

The politician, who has represented the 71st District since 2016, was assailed last year when he compared the Jan. 6 insurrection to the American Revolutionary War.

Presumably this was not the grandparent that helped Brink change his name to Aldrich at 16 years of age.

The more we find out about this perp, the more questions get raised about why people around him and law enforcement didn’t intervene earlier to prevent Brink/Aldrich from conducting a violent attack. We had laws in place that could have been used to stop his violent potential from being realized. Before passing more laws or blaming political debate for this outcome, we should focus on the failures of the measures already in place to prevent tragedies like this.

Here’s video of the 2021 arrest, which emerged late yesterday. It notes that Aldrich live-streamed his threats, which raise more questions about why prosecutors couldn’t make a case even without the mother’s cooperation. Maybe we’ll get answers to that soon, but not if media outlets are focusing on political debate as the proximate cause of the Club Q massacre.

 

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