Seth Klamann and Elise Schmelzer
The Denver Post
DENVER — The suspect accused of opening fire in a Colorado Springs nightclub changed their name in 2016 to protect themself from their birth father and that man’s “criminal history,” according to court records obtained by The Denver Post.
Nicholas Franklin Brink asked a Bexar County, Texas, judge to change their name to Anderson Lee Aldrich more than six years ago, when they were 15, court records show. Aldrich was living in San Antonio at the time, records show, and their grandparents signed the petition authorizing the name change.
The family wrote that Aldrich wanted to change their name “to protect himself and his future from any connections to birth father (sic) and his criminal history. Father has had no contact with (Aldrich) for several years.”
Aldrich’s defense attorneys on Tuesday wrote in court filings that Aldrich is nonbinary and uses they/them pronouns. Aldrich is being held on suspicion of murder and bias-motivated crimes, but officials have not said what evidence supports their allegations of a hate crime.
The petition was filed on April 28, 2016, and granted by a judge on May 2, shortly before Aldrich’s 16th birthday. The Washington Post first reported the filing Tuesday morning, but the revelations about Aldrich seeking a name change to distance themself from their father, Aaron Brink, had not yet been reported.
There has been intense scrutiny of Aldrich’s history since they were arrested early Sunday morning on suspicion of killing five people and injuring 18 more at Club Q in Colorado Springs.
Police have said Aldrich, 22, walked into the gay and lesbian club and opened fire, minutes before the beginning of Transgender Day of Remembrance began. The suspect was tackled by patrons of the club, one of whom beat him bloody with his own weapon.
Aldrich was discharged from the hospital Tuesday and booked into the El Paso County Jail, according to Colorado Springs police. Aldrich is scheduled to make their initial court appearance Wednesday morning via video from the jail.
Target of online bullying
Officials have remained tight-lipped about Aldrich. They have yet to publicly identify a motive for the shootings, and they have refused to confirm if Aldrich is the same person who was arrested in June 2021 for threatening their mother with a bomb and other weapons.
But the records obtained by The Post provide key insight into Aldrich’s history and show they had been the subject of a legal guardianship court ruling in California before and that their grandparents were legal guardians.
Aaron Brink signed the petition acknowledging he was Aldrich’s father and giving his child permission to change their name. The petition is also signed by Aldrich’s mother, Laura Voepel. Brink and Voepel divorced in 2001, court records show.
Public records indicate a man with the same name as Aaron Brink — and with the same middle name as Nicholas Brink — has an extensive arrest record in at least three states.
In an interview with MMA Junkie, Brink said he was in and out of juvenile detention as a teen. In 1996, he was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison for smuggling marijuana into the country, according to federal court records.
Online court records show he faced at least four criminal cases in San Diego County, California, though records do not name the charges. In Orange County, California, he was convicted of DUI, lying to law enforcement and possession of a controlled substance between 2011 and 2016. He also faced a felony charge, though online court records do not show the charge or the disposition.
Voepel, who has not returned multiple requests for comment since the shooting Saturday night, has posted to Facebook that her father is California Republican assemblyman Randy Voepel. Randy Voepel, a longtime mayor and city councilman of the San Diego suburb of Santee, also has not returned repeated requests for comment. He lost a primary election earlier this year. Randy Voepel is not one of the grandparents who signed Aldrich’s petition.
Aldrich also appeared to be the target of online bullying during their teenage years. A webpage created in 2015 lobs a series of profane insults and accusations at Nick Brink and their family, mentioning their grandparents by name. The website has been updated since the shooting with more bigoted language and insults, according to its archived history.
The page includes screenshots of an undated GoFundMe, allegedly launched by Aldrich’s grandmother to fund a trip to Japan, and photos that purport to depict Aldrich. The webpage also links to a YouTube account made in Nicholas Brink’s name. The account has only one post, a profanity-laced animated video uploaded in 2012. The video has more than 700 views as of Tuesday morning.
“Blow it to holy hell”
Videos provided to The Post by Leslie Bowman, who rented a room to Voepel, show parts of the incident that led to Aldrich’s June 18, 2021, arrest outside Bowman’s house. El Paso County sheriff’s deputies arrested Aldrich on suspicion of five felonies after Aldrich allegedly threatened to harm their mother with a homemade bomb, guns and other weapons.
One video shows Aldrich walking into the house with Voepel, who helps them carry in luggage. Aldrich tells Voepel “This is where I stand” and “Today I die,” according to the videos.
A livestream that Aldrich filmed during the standoff shows them wearing a helmet and tactical vest. Aldrich talks about the cops outside the house. Bowman recorded a copy of the livestream before it was deleted.
“If they breach I’m going to (expletive) blow it to holy hell,” Aldrich said in the livestream. “So go ahead and come on in boys, let’s (expletive) see it.”
The videos also show Aldrich coming out of the house barefoot and surrendering to deputies standing outside an armored law enforcement vehicle.
It remains unclear what happened to the case against Aldrich. There is no related court file visible to the public and officials have refused to discuss the case.
The Colorado Springs Gazette reported it received a voice message from Aldrich in August asking the newspaper to remove a story about the 2021 arrest because the case was dropped. The newspaper added an editor’s note to the story stating prosecutors did not pursue formal charges and the case was sealed.
A coalition of news outlets, including The Post, filed a petition Monday asking that the 2021 case be unsealed.