Hate crimes require proving that the shooter was motivated by personal bias, such as toward the victims’ identity or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. The charges against Aldrich are preliminary, and prosecutors have yet to file formal charges.
Defense attorneys said Tuesday afternoon that the suspect is not a second suspect and that in the court filing the suspect is referred to as “Mx. Aldrich.” The lawyer’s notes confirm that Aldrich is not a second person and uses they/them pronouns.
Prosecutor Michael Allen repeatedly referred to the suspect as “he” during a press conference after the hearing and said the suspect’s gender status would not change anything about the case in his opinion. Allen said Aldrich is “physically competent” to stand trial.
Ankeny set a hearing for Dec. 6.
Aldrich’s name was changed more than six years ago as a teenager, after filing a lawsuit in Texas seeking to “protect himself” from a father who had a criminal record including domestic violence against Aldrich’s mother.
Aldrich was known as Nicholas Franklin Brink until 2016. Weeks before his 16th birthday, Aldrich successfully filed a lawsuit in a Texas court to have his name changed, court records show. His legal guardians filed a petition to change the name on Brink’s behalf.
“The younger one wishes to protect himself and his future from any association with his father and his criminal history. Father has not had contact with the minors for several years,” the complaint, filed in Bexar County, Texas, said.
The suspect’s father, Aaron Brink, is an anti-porn and anti-porn activist with a long history, including the life sentence of the suspect’s mother, Laura Voepel, before the suspect was born, and after birth, according to state and federal court records. . A 2002 battery conviction in California resulted in a protective order that initially barred Aaron Brink from contacting the suspect or Voepel except through an attorney, but was later changed to allow visitation with the child.
Aaron Brink told San Diego CBS affiliate KFMB-TV that he was shocked to learn of Aldrich’s involvement. He said the first thing he did was question why Aldrich was at the gay bar. Brink said he didn’t have much contact with his son but taught them to fight, “praising” Aldrich for his violent behavior from an early age. He added that he was sorry to let Aldrich go. “There’s no excuse for going around killing people,” Brink said. “If you’re killing people, there’s something wrong. It’s not an answer.”
One of the ancestors of the accused is Randy Voepel, a member of the California State Legislature. The suspect’s mother, Laura Voepel, identified Randy Voepel as her father on her Facebook page in a 2020 post about his time in the state legislature.
Voepel, a Republican, has a record of voting against LGBTQ bills. He compared the January 6 attack on the US Capitol to the Revolutionary War, calling it “the first shot fired against tyranny.” In response to the criticism, he later said that he did not “condemn or support violence and lawlessness.”
Randy Voepel did not return phone calls seeking comment. It is not known how close he is to the suspect.
Aldrich’s request for a name change comes months after Aldrich was apparently targeted by cyberbullying. A website posted from June 2015 targeting a teenager named Nick Brink suggests that they may have been bullied in high school. The footage includes images similar to those of the alleged shooter and taunts Brink about their weight, lack of money and what he says is an interest in Chinese art.
In addition, a YouTube account was opened in Brink’s name that included a video entitled “Asian gay is destroyed.”
The Washington Post first reported the name change and abuse.