Anderson Lee Aldrich, the alleged gunman in the Club Q nightclub shooting in Colorado Springs that killed five people, grew up in a family mired in dysfunction with significant roots in Southern California.
Aldrich’s father, Aaron Brink, was an MMA fighter from Orange County who dabbled in pornography for awhile, battled an addiction to crystal methamphetamine and spent time in federal prison for smuggling marijuana. His mother, Laura Voepel, had some minor scrapes with the law and once was arrested on suspicion of arson.
Court records show the couple divorced in Orange County in September 2001, when Aldrich was just a year old. At that time, Voepel obtained a court order forbidding any contact between Brink and his son. Following the divorce, Voepel gained full custody of her son and, in the years that followed, moved with her baby to Texas, living at times with the boy’s maternal grandmother, the Washington Post reported.
Additionally, Aldrich’s maternal grandfather is outgoing state Assemblymember Randy Voepel, whose district includes Anza, Idyllwild, Pine Cove and Valle Vista in Riverside County and a large swath of San Diego County.
Randy Voepel, who did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday, attracted attention when he compared the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol to the Revolutionary War.
“This is Lexington and Concord. First shots fired against tyranny,” he said, according to the San Diego Union Tribune. “Tyranny will follow in the aftermath of the Biden swear in on January 20th.”
Voepel later tried to walk back his comments by tweeting a statement which read in part, “I do not condone or support the violence and lawlessness that took place on Wednesday, January 6th, at our nation’s capital. The loss of life, theft of government property, and blatant disregard for law and order is reprehensible and unnecessary.”
Public records show that Aldrich was so intent on separating himself from his father’s criminal and controversial background that he changed his name at age 15.
Born May 20, 2000, in San Diego as Nicholas Franklin Brink, Aldrich appeared before a judge in Bexar County, Texas, on April 16, 2016, and requested his name be changed to Anderson Lee Aldrich. Judge Barbara Nellermoe granted the petition, court records show.
The petition, obtained Tuesday by the Southern California News Group, stated the reason for the name change was to “protect himself and his future from any connections to his birth father and his criminal history.” It stated that Aldrich had not had any contact with his biological father for several years.
At the time, Aldrich was living with his grandparents, his legal guardians, at their San Antonio home. Both of his grandparents, his mother and his father signed the petition. The petition also noted a prior court order in Riverside regarding a legal guardianship matter involving the boy.
Public records indicate a man with the same name as Aaron Brink has an extensive arrest record in at least three states, and that Laura Voepel had resided in Riverside County, including Lake Elsinore, Murrieta and Temecula, throughout the 2000s. From 2008 through 2011, Voepel racked up several misdemeanor charges in Riverside County, court records show.
Public records show Voepel lived in Murrieta from October 2005 through September 2009.
Monica Gutierrez, a spokeswoman for the Murrieta Valley Unified School District, said in an email Tuesday that the district’s student database only dates back to the 2008-09 school year, and no records for that school year or thereafter match the name Nicholas Franklin Brink.
But Gutierrez could not say Tuesday whether Brink had attended any of the district’s schools prior to the 2008-09 school year.
Shaun Coast, however, said he remembers attending Buchanan Elementary School with Brink in the 2005-2006 school year. The two also attended Tutor Time of Murrieta, an after school daycare center on Margarita Road.
He remembers Brink as being a pudgy, playful, imaginative and rambunctious boy. In other words: normal.
“You wouldn’t really think of this kid as committing a shooting. But you don’t think that of any 6-year-old,” said Coast, 24, who now lives in Claremont. “He seemed like any other kid. He didn’t strike me as anyone troubled.”
He said Brink stopped attending daycare about half way through the school year, but he said he couldn’t remember if he also left Buchanan.
Aldrich, 22, was arrested early Sunday morning on suspicion of killing five people and injuring 18 more at Club Q in Colorado Springs. He allegedly walked into the gay and lesbian club and opened fire, minutes before the beginning of Transgender Day of Remembrance began.
Club patrons tackled and subdued Aldrich. One beat him bloody with his own weapon, police said.
Aldrich was discharged from the hospital Tuesday and booked into the El Paso County Jail, according to Colorado Springs police. He is scheduled to make his initial court appearance Wednesday morning, Nov. 23, via video from the jail.
Aldrich’s father, Aaron Brink, told MMA Junkie in a 2009 interview that he was a 12-stepper battling his addiction to crystal meth, that he grew up in Huntington Beach, was kicked out of Huntington Beach High School for fighting, and from 1989 to 1992 had been in and out of juvenile hall eight times for various offenses.
In 1996, Brink was sentenced to 30 months in the federal prison on Terminal Island for smuggling marijuana into the country, according to federal court records.
Online court records show he faced at least four criminal cases in San Diego County, though records do not name the charges. In Orange County, he was convicted of DUI, lying to law enforcement and possession of a controlled substance from 2011 to 2016. He also faced a felony charge, though online court records do not show the charge or the disposition.
Riverside County court records show that Voepel ran into a series of legal problems from 2008 through 2011. In 2008, she was convicted of filing a false report with police, a misdemeanor, and sentenced to three years probation. The same year, she was charged and subsequently convicted of misdmeanor public intoxication and sentenced to three years probation.
The status of two misdemeanors Voepel was charged with in 2011 — driving under the influence and being under the influence of controlled substance — was unclear. The court website lists them as “active,” and also shows that, from June 2008 to April 2022, Voepel had four warrants issued for her arrest. Among the reasons was for failing to appear in court.
According to the Washington Post, Voepel, when her son was 12 years old, was arrested for suspected arson in San Antonio Texas, but was later convicted of a lesser offense.
The Denver Post contributed to this report.
Editor’s note: This article has been update to include comment from Shaun Coast.