COLORADO SPRINGS — The small, close-knit L.G.B.T.Q. community in Colorado Springs, a conservative city at the foot of Pikes Peak with a large presence of military bases, was still reeling on Wednesday from the deadly attack at Club Q, which served as an oasis for many.
Before a court hearing scheduled for Wednesday afternoon, new details were emerging about the person the police have accused of killing five people in the attack.
The suspect, who may face hate crime charges, identifies as nonbinary and uses they-them pronouns, the suspect’s lawyers said in court papers filed before the hearing.
The suspect, Anderson Lee Aldrich, 22, was being held without bond, and was expected to appear at the hearing by video from the El Paso County Jail.
Prosecutors had not yet filed formal charges, or said what they believed the motive was for the attack.
Public defenders representing the suspect indicated their client’s preferred pronouns in a series of court filings that were made public late on Tuesday.
One footnote in the filings said: “They use they/them pronouns, and for the purposes of all formal filings, will be addressed as Mx. Aldrich.”
Lawyers for the suspect did not respond to requests for comment.
Kristen Prata Browde, a co-chair of the National Trans Bar Association, said that a suspect’s gender identity should have no bearing on whether they can be prosecuted for a hate crime in the Club Q shooting.
“The motive for a crime isn’t dependent on whether you are or are not a member of a protected class,” Ms. Prata Browde said. “It legally has no significance, as far as whether the actions of this individual fit within the law regarding hate crimes.”
She said it would be best for the court and prosecutors to respect the suspect’s preferred pronouns and gender identity, and treat them “like any other defendant.”
When the suspect was arrested, the police listed five potential counts of murder and five counts of what Colorado state law refers to as “bias-motivated” crimes, meaning that they were motivated at least in part by bias concerning a victim’s race, nationality, religion, disability, sexual orientation or gender identity. Such crimes are more widely known as hate crimes.
According to the police and witnesses, the attacker, clad in body armor, burst into the club just before midnight on Saturday and opened fire with a long gun, killing five people and injuring 18 others before being tackled by people inside the club.
One club patron, an Army veteran, grabbed a handgun from the assailant and pummeled them bloody, and told another person to kick the suspect in the face — interventions that the authorities said had saved lives.
The hearing on Wednesday, scheduled for 11:30 a.m. Mountain time, was not expected to yield many new details about the attack or the motive behind it. The hearing is an early step in what is likely to be a long legal process.
A judge was expected to advise the suspect of their legal rights and the potential charges they are facing. Prosecutors do not have to formally charge the suspect at the hearing on Wednesday.
In the wake of the attack, survivors and their families have focused on whether the suspect’s family or law-enforcement officials could have intervened before the attack, and whether Colorado’s red-flag laws could have been used to seize weapons from the suspect.
Law enforcement officials have said the suspect was arrested last year outside Colorado Springs after the suspect’s mother reported being threatened by the suspect about a homemade bomb and other weapons. A news release from the El Paso County Sheriff about the 2021 incident described a frightening scene, with nearby houses evacuated, and said that a negotiation team was used to make an arrest.
The suspect was not prosecuted. Court records involving the threat have been sealed.
Interviews and public records revealed that the suspect had a troubled childhood marked by frequent moves. The suspect’s mother and father divorced when the suspect was less than 2 years old. Each parent had problems with substance abuse and a history of arrests.
The suspect was born Nicholas Brink, but legally changed their name to Anderson Lee Aldrich as a teenager in Bexar County, Texas, according to court documents. (The name change was reported earlier by The Washington Post.)
By that time, the suspect’s father, Aaron Franklin Brink, had been arrested numerous times in California on charges related to drug use and erratic driving, court records show. Mr. Brink said in an interview at his home in San Diego that his ex-wife, Laura Voepel, told him years ago that their child had changed their name because they were embarrassed by their father. Mr. Brink said Ms. Voepel later told him that their child had died, and that he believed that to be the case until several months ago, when Mr. Brink and the suspect reconnected by phone.
Mr. Brink said the phone call devolved into an argument, and at one point his child threatened to beat him up. Yet Mr. Brink said the conversation ended amicably.
Mr. Brink, who said he had worked as a pornographic actor and was now a mixed martial arts coach, described himself as religious and a conservative Republican who condemned gun violence. He acknowledged that he had voiced strong disapproval of gay people when the child was younger. Even so, in the interview Mr. Brink expressed sympathy for the families of the victims in the club shooting.
The suspect’s mother was charged in California with public intoxication in 2008, and with driving under the influence and possessing a controlled substance without a valid prescription in 2011. She was placed on five years’ probation in Texas after an episode in 2012 in which, after being admitted to the psychiatric ward of a San Antonio hospital, she set her bed on fire, according to court records. A psychiatric evaluation filed with the court indicated that the mother had struggled throughout her life with mental illness. Attempts to reach her for comment were unsuccessful.
Court records indicated that the suspect had been living since childhood with their maternal grandparents, who listed the child as a dependent as long ago as 2008.
Kirsten Noyes contributed research. Edgar Sandoval contributed reporting.