The suspect in the mass shooting at an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado had a tumultuous upbringing, bullied as a teenager and raised for a time by his grandmother, according to a portrait of the suspected gunman compiled by CNN.
Anderson Lee Aldrich ended up in his grandmother’s care as his mother struggled with a series of arrests and related mental health evaluations, according to court records and an interview with a family member.
The suspect’s grandmother, whom a relative described as his primary caretaker, declined to be interviewed by CNN.
Aldrich’s relationship with his mother appeared volatile last year when she called police on her son and said he threatened to hurt her with a homemade bomb and other weapons.
No charges were filed and the case has since been sealed, leaving unanswered questions about how Aldrich avoided prosecution in a case that may have ultimately barred him from legally possessing a gun if convicted.
A little over a year after the bomb threat incident, Aldrich allegedly opened fire at Club Q in Colorado Springs, killing five people and leaving more than a dozen injured. Aldrich, 22, faces five counts of first-degree murder and five counts of a bias-motivated crime causing bodily harm, according to an online filing in El Paso County Court. The 6’4″, 260-pound suspect had been hospitalized for undisclosed injuries after he was subdued by club patrons during the attack.
Born Nicholas Brink in May 2000, Aldrich is the son of Laura Voepel and Aaron Brink, who married in 1999. Neither parent could be reached for comment. His father filed for divorce in September 2001 in Orange County, California, citing irreconcilable differences. In his initial petition, he requested legal custody and visitation rights, but asked that the court award full physical custody to Voepel. Voepel stated in a 2007 application that her son had not had contact with his father.
Aldrich’s father was a mixed martial artist and porn star who spent time in federal prison for illegally importing marijuana, according to court documents, interviews and an entertainment website.
About a year before Aldrich was born, Brink pleaded guilty in 1999 to a misdemeanor domestic battery charge and received a suspended sentence, according to San Diego County Superior Court. Federal court records say the victim in that case was Voepel, who was described as his girlfriend.
Voepel, the daughter of California Assemblyman Randy Voepel, was granted sole legal and physical custody of her son in 2007. In May of that year, Voepel stated in court records that she was unemployed and engaged with a new baby on the way. to Aldrich, who was six at the time.
In 2009, Aldrich’s mother received three years of probation for convictions of public intoxication and falsely reporting a crime to police. The false report conviction stemmed from a 2008 incident in Murrieta, Calif., where police responded to a reported home invasion and found Voepel lying on his bed with his hands and legs bound with duct tape. Voepel initially told police that a man had put a noose around her neck, bound her with tape and placed a knife to her chest. However, she admitted the following day that she had been under the influence of drugs and made up the incident because “she was lonely and wanted attention,” a police report said.
In 2010, Voepel underwent court-ordered mental health treatment in Riverside County, California, stemming from those cases, according to court records obtained by CNN.
The records show Voepel sought custody of her then 10-year-old son — the age Aldrich would have been at the time. A document filed later noted that Voepel said her son had started living with her and that she planned to apply for medical, welfare and food stamp assistance.
It was unclear what periods of time Aldrich lived with her grandmother, who, according to public records, had homes in the same areas where her daughter and granddaughter lived in California, Texas and Colorado.
While in Texas, Aldrich’s mother continued to struggle with the law and mental health issues. A relative, who spoke to CNN on condition of anonymity, described Voepel as “sweet” but also as having a “tumultuous life.”
In 2012, she allegedly used a lighter to start a fire in her room at Baptist Medical Center in San Antonio, according to a police report. Voepel, who was rescued by a hospital employee, initially denied starting the fire, but security footage showed she was the only person in her room when the fire started, according to the police report.
A licensed psychologist concluded that she suffered from severe borderline personality disorder and alcohol dependence, among other things, records show. According to court documents, she was initially charged with arson but pleaded no contest to a reduced offense of criminal mischief in August 2013. She was sentenced to five years of community supervision.
After his mother’s battle, Aldrich apparently had his own problems with at least some of his peers. In 2015, he was the subject of an online bullying page on a parody website. The Wikipedia-like site features photos of Aldrich as a teenager and uses offensive slurs to mock his weight and accuse him of engaging in illegal activity.
The page mocked an apparent attempt by Aldrich’s grandmother to raise money for him to travel to Japan with classmates. A screenshot of a fundraising appeal says “Make a dream come true for a young man who has survived many hard knocks over his young life.” According to the announcement, the fundraising goal was not reached.
A history of revisions to the page shows that the bullying posts about him were updated several times over a five-month period in 2015. The page, first reported by the Washington Post, is still active.
Later that year, just before his 16th birthday, the teenager legally changed his name from Nicholas F. Brink to Anderson Lee Aldrich. A reason for the name change, which was also first reported by The Post, was not given.
Aldrich later moved to Colorado Springs, where he lived with his grandmother. His mother lived in a rented room in a house nearby. Last year, Aldrich live-streamed a video from his mother’s Facebook page that allegedly showed himself inside the house during a stand-off with police in the wake of the alleged bomb threat.
Leslie Bowman, who owns the home where the altercation took place and where Aldrich’s mother had rented a room, said she recorded the video, which has since been deleted, and provided it to CNN.
The short video shows a few seconds of an agitated young man – identified by Bowman as Aldrich – wearing a helmet and some form of body armor, challenging the police to break into the house where he had holed up.
He ends the video with what appears to be a message to law enforcement outside: “So, uh, go ahead and get in, boys! Let’s damn it!”
The video doesn’t actually show any officers outside the house, and it’s not clear if Aldrich had any weapons.
The El Paso County Sheriff’s Office said in a news release at the time that Aldrich had threatened to harm his mother “with a homemade bomb, multiple guns and ammunition” and that several nearby homes had been evacuated.
Aldrich later surrendered to sheriff’s deputies, which was seen in other video footage previously reported by CNN. The sheriff’s office said no explosives were found in the house.
It’s not immediately clear how the bomb threat case was resolved, but the Colorado Springs Gazette reported that the district attorney’s office said no formal charges were filed in the case. The district attorney’s office did not respond to a request for comment from CNN.
Correction: This story has been updated to reflect the suspect charged with first degree murder and bias crime.