COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado – Lawyers for the 22-year-old accused of fatally shooting five people at a Colorado LGBTQ club said their client is non-binary, ahead of an initial court appearance on Wednesday, as details emerged of a chaotic past including family breakdown and a name change.
At least 18 others were hurt when a gun-wielding attacker stormed Club Q in Colorado Springs on Saturday night, opening fire on customers and staff.
The assault, which ended when a US Army veteran pounced on the attacker, shattered a rare safe haven for the city’s tight-knit LGBTQ community.
On Wednesday, suspect Anderson Lee Aldrich, 22, appeared by video link at a court hearing, wearing orange jail clothes. No charges were levied, and no pleas entered.
Aldrich, who remained seated throughout, was flanked by two public defenders who said in court documents that the suspect identifies as nonbinary, and uses they/them pronouns.
Aldrich has not been formally charged, but is being held without bond on suspicion of murder. Under Colorado’s judicial system, formal charges are not expected for another 10 days.
A picture of Aldrich’s messy life began to emerge on Wednesday, with a childhood marked by instability and with parents who suffered from substance abuse problems.
US media reported that Aldrich was born Nicholas Brink to parents who had separated by the time the child turned two.
Nicholas became Anderson Lee Aldrich in a legal name change during his teenage years spent in Texas.
By then, Aldrich’s father Aaron Franklin Brink had been arrested several times in California in connection with drug and driving offences. He told CBS News that his ex-wife Laura Voepel informed him several years ago that their child had died.
Brink said he “praised” Aldrich for violent behaviour as a child. “I told him it works. It is instant and you’ll get immediate results,” the father said.
He said he was sorry for his child’s alleged actions, and that there is “no excuse for going and killing people”.
The New York Times said Aldrich’s mother had also had run-ins with California law enforcement, including for public drunkenness and in connection with possession of a controlled substance.
In 2012, she was given five years’ probation in Texas for setting fire to a bed in the psychiatric ward to which she had been admitted, according to court records seen by the Times.
Wednesday’s brief hearing came just days after the brutal attack in Club Q, with the small Rocky Mountain city of half a million people still reeling.
A bank of flowers and teddy bears formed a makeshift memorial outside the club, while on Monday night a candlelit vigil was held in a city park.
A tentative new court appearance for Aldrich has been scheduled for Dec 6. AFP