- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 23, 2022

DENVER — The suspect in the deadly massacre at a Colorado Springs gay nightclub is nonbinary, according to defense attorneys, raising questions about whether the attack was motivated by anti-LGBTQ bias.

The disclosure appeared in a court document filed Tuesday by attorneys for Anderson Lee Aldrich, 22, who faces murder and hate-crime charges stemming from the Saturday night shooting at Club Q that left five people dead and 18 injured.

Anderson Aldrich is nonbinary. They use they/them pronouns, and for the purposes of all formal fillings, will be addressed as Mx. Aldrich,” the attorneys said in a footnote on the filing.

The suspect was released from the hospital Tuesday after being treated for injuries suffered while being subdued by bar patrons. The suspect appeared by video Wednesday from jail at an advisement hearing in El Paso County Court in Colorado Springs.

Video from the hearing showed the defendant slumped in a chair, flanked by two public defenders, with visible facial bruising. Formal charges are expected at the next hearing scheduled for Dec. 6, and until then, the suspect is being held without bond.

District Attorney Michael Allen of the Fourth Judicial District said the suspect’s nonbinary status would have “no impact on the way that I prosecute this case.”

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“To us, his legal definition in this proceeding is the defendant,” Mr. Allen said at a press briefing after the hearing.

Those killed in the attack were bartenders Daniel Davis Aston, 28, and Derrick Rump, 38, and patrons Raymond Green Vance, 22, Ashley Paugh, 35, and Kelly Loving, 40.

Colorado Springs officials and community leaders held a ceremony Wednesday honoring the victims and displaying the 14-by-25-foot “Sacred Cloth” Pride Flag outside city hall.

The charges are preliminary and not formal, but the decision by prosecutors to raise the hate-crime possibility fueled widespread speculation that the suspect was motivated by anti-LGBTQ bias, prompting Democrats to blame conservative rhetoric.

“This attack also comes amidst a rise in violent rhetoric and threats against the LGBTQI+ people across the country,” said White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre at Tuesday’s press briefing. “While we don’t know yet for certain the motive of this attack, hate has no place in this country.”

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg tweeted: “If you’re a politician or media figure who sets up the LGBTQ community to be hated and feared — not because any of us ever harmed you but because you find it useful — then don’t you dare act surprised when this kind of violence follows.”

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After Rep. Lauren Boebert, Colorado Republican, expressed outrage over the attack, Mr. Buttigieg’s husband, Chasten Buttigieg, tweeted, “You encourage this type of hatred.”

Conservatives responded Wednesday by accusing those on the left of jumping to conclusions to stoke the anti-right narrative.

“The ‘republicans are violent’ crowd sure got quiet after it was discovered the Colorado shooter is non-binary and identifies with they/them pronouns,” tweeted actor Kevin Sorbo.

Christopher Rufo, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, accused The New York Times of publishing a “deranged op-ed claiming that my reporting on drag queen story hour was somehow responsible for the recent shooting in Colorado.”

“Now we find out the shooter identifies as ‘nonbinary’ and uses ‘they/them’ pronouns,” Mr. Rufo tweeted. “The NYT used the tragedy to falsely smear me.”

CNN political commentator Errol Davis raised the possibility that the defense is seeking to counter the hate-crime charges.

“It sounds like they’re trying to prepare a defense against a hate-crimes charge. That’s the least of his problems legally speaking, but it looks like they’re trying to build some kind of sympathy or at least confusion,” Mr. Davis said.

The suspect appears to have a history of violent threats. A video obtained by the Colorado Springs Gazette shows a person believed to be the suspect surrendering to El Paso County sheriff’s deputies last year after the person’s mother called to report a bomb threat.

“The reporting party said her son was threatening to cause harm to her with a homemade bomb, multiple weapons, and ammunition,” the sheriff’s office stated in a press release dated June 18, 2021, that named the individual as Anderson Lee Aldrich.

The district attorney’s office declined to pursue charges. The suspect later called the newspaper demanding that it update the initial story or remove it from the website, the Gazette reported.

In a separate incident, the suspect held their grandparents at gunpoint last year after learning they planned to sell their Colorado Springs home, where the suspect was living, according to KKTV-TV, citing a three-page affidavit.

The document said that the suspect told the grandmother about wanting “to go out in a blaze” by carrying out a mass shooting and bombing. It was unclear what happened to the case.

Mr. Allen declined to answer questions about the previous incidents.

“I can’t specifically talk about what you’re asking about because of sealing statutes in the state of Colorado,” Mr. Allen said.

The suspect was known as Nicholas Franklin Brink until 2016, when the suspect petitioned the court for a name change, citing the father’s extensive criminal history, according to a petition filed in Bexar County, Texas.

“Minor 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 petition said.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

• Valerie Richardson can be reached at vrichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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