Law Enforcement

Club Q Killer's Nonbinary Status and Hate Crime Narrative

Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser during a November 21 appearance on CNN.
Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser during a November 21 appearance on CNN. CNN via Twitter
The November 19 shooting at Club Q in Colorado Springs, which killed five people and injured nineteen, quickly led to speculation about whether the attack would qualify as a hate crime from Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser as well as other officials. But that narrative took a serious turn on November 22, with the filing of a court document noting that the gunman identifies as nonbinary.

Revelations about the shooter came fast and furious yesterday, with much of the heavy lifting done by the Denver Gazette's Carol McKinley. Among them: The suspect legally changed his name from Nicholas Franklin Brink to Anderson Lee Aldrich in 2016, when he was fifteen years old, with the permission of his mother, Laura Voepel, who'd been arrested for arson in 2013, and his father, Aaron Brink, a porn actor under the nom de plume Dick Delaware who also pursued a career as an MMA fighter and had a history of drug abuse.

Meanwhile, the gunman was transferred from the hospital (he sustained injuries after being taken down by Thomas James and Richard Fierro, a veteran who received a congratulatory phone call from President Joe Biden) to El Paso County jail, where he is being held on five charges apiece of first-degree murder and bias-motivated crime causing bodily injury.

At the outset of a November 21 appearance on CNN, Weiser was asked about possible motives for the assault.

"I think it's fair to say, based on the facts, it's very hard to conceive of a situation in which the motive wasn't generated by hate," Weiser replied. "This is a well-known nightclub where individuals, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, the LGBTQ community knew was a safe place — was a place where people could be their authentic selves. And someone came and essentially took all of that away. Because we know there's so much of this hate out there, particularly toward individuals who are LGBTQ. And this is obviously something.... It was on Transgender Remembrance Day when this happened. So this is a call to all of us to look at this hate and ask, 'What do we do about it?'"

Here's a clip of the interview as tweeted by Weiser:
On the afternoon of November 22, Weiser was back on CNN, where hate crime was once again a topic. This time, though, the question pertained to why bias-motivation allegations were important when they wouldn't add severity to murder convictions, which carry a maximum penalty of life in prison without the possibility of parole in Colorado. According to Weiser, such charges shine a light on the offense while also sending a message about why such acts must be energetically rejected by society.

Hours later, in a document time-stamped at 5:48 p.m., the gunman's public defenders, Megan Ring, Joseph Archambault and Michael Bowman, added a key footnote to their invocation of client rights: "Anderson Aldrich is nonbinary. They use they/them pronouns, and for the purposes of all formal filings, will be addressed as Mx. Aldrich."

Below, see the first page of the filing in a screen capture from KOAA, with the nonbinary information highlighted.
click to enlarge
Colorado Attorney General's office via KOAA
The disclosure about the gunman's nonbinary status instantly complicates any easy assumptions about motive in this crime, by Attorney General Weiser or anyone else.

The suspect is scheduled for a virtual court appearance at 11:30 a.m. today.

In the meantime, the Sacred Cloth Project has loaned what's known as Section 93 of the Sea to Sea Flag, a historic banner that was flown after the 2016 shooting at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, to the City of Colorado Springs. The flag will be displayed on the exterior of Colorado Springs City Hall, 107 North Nevada Avenue, during a ceremony scheduled for 10 a.m. today. Click for more details about the Sacred Cloth Project.
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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts

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