December 9, 2022

In case anyone was thrown off by the red herring thrown out by the defense attorneys for the Colorado Springs mass shooter, Anderson Aldrich—namely, the assertion that Aldrich identifies as nonbinary—it’s become crystal clear that the horrific attempted massacre at Club Q last month was in fact both a hate crime motivated by anti-LGBTQ animus and an act of right-wing domestic terrorism.

We know this not only because prosecutors have in fact charged Aldrich with an anti-LGBTQ hate crime, but because an NBC News report has revealed that Aldrich operated two websites that specialized in promoting mass shootings and spewing bigoted hate speech—and one of his neighbors who participated in the sites with Aldrich says his old neighbor regularly and vehemently expressed a hatred of LGBTQ people.

The websites, according to the report by Jo Yurcaba and Ben Collins, were designed to be “free speech” sites, “a platform where people could go and post pretty much whatever they want.” What they primarily featured, as usual with such sites, was a relentless deluge of racist and antisemitic speech.

One of the sites featured a video that advocated killing civilians as part of a larger effort to “assassinate the elites at the top” and “cleanse” society. It linked to a website containing four videos that appear to have been recorded by Aldrich driving around in a car in the hours prior to the attempted Nov. 19 massacre, which killed five people and wounded 20 others.

According to the report, its “brother site” had previously hosted video of the May 14 massacre inside a Buffalo, New York, supermarket that left 10 people dead. That shooter left a manifesto making clear that he was motivated by white-supremacist ideology, particularly the so-called “replacement theory” claiming white people are being purposefully eradicated from society. Links to Aldrich’s site were widely shared on the far-right message boards 4chan and 8kun immediately after the shooting.

The former neighbor, Xavier Kraus, told NBC that Aldrich regularly made racist and homophobic statements, including that he “hated faggots.” Kraus said that he has subsequently experienced a “tremendous amount of guilt,” since he failed to ever challenged Aldrich because they were “an angry person” who also owned guns.

When Aldrich’s attorneys first claimed that their client identifies as nonbinary and demanded he be referred to with they/them pronouns and the title “Mx.” for the rest of the court proceedings—regardless how cynical such a defense claim might be—the “gotcha” response from the right was immediate and widespread.

“Watch in real-time as CNN anchor Alisyn Camerota sees her network’s narrative on the Colorado Springs gay night club shooting come crashing down,” tweeted Kevin Tober of the right-wing outlet NewsBusters, which was then amplified in The New York Post.

Notorious U.K. extremist Tommy Robinson posted the news with a laughing emoji and text reading: “There goes their whole narrative.” On the Proud Boys-adjacent Telegram channel the Western Chauvinist, commenters concluded that the news about Aldrich’s claimed pronouns was “why we’re not hearing very much about the Club Q shooting anymore.”

Charlie Kirk of the campus-conservative organization Turning Point USA agreed. “And just like that, the media is done talking about the Club Q shooting,” Kirk said on Telegram.

But in fact, regardless of however Aldrich actually identifies, his life leading up to the moment he stepped into a queer club and opened fire was a largely unremitting litany of far-right indoctrination, hateful abuse, and terroristic violence.

Aldrich, in fact, was arrested last year after kidnapping their mother, Laura Voepel, then threatening to kill her with a homemade bomb. Aldrich then engaged responding SWAT team officers in a standoff at a nearby house for nearly an hour. The incident forced police to evacuate their neighborhood, and Aldrich was initially charged with felony menacing and kidnapping—but the charges were mysteriously dropped, and the case sealed.

Aldrich is the grandchild of a far-right California legislator who has praised the Jan. 6 insurrection. Laura Voepel’s father is outgoing Republican State Assemblymember Randy Voepel, who represented the 71st District in the San Diego area. After Voepel—the former mayor of Santee, California—made comments comparing the Jan. 6 attacks to the Revolutionary War, some constituents called for his removal. He lost his primary in 2022. Laura Voepel has written posts on Facebook praising her father; Anderson Aldrich is in a family photo taken with Randy Voepel that she posted on Facebook in 2014.

The Colorado Springs Gazette reported that after the El Paso County district attorney decided not to press charges in the case and the court record was sealed, Aldrich called their offices in August and demanded that their original June 2021 reportage on the bomb threat be removed.

"There is absolutely nothing there, the case was dropped, and I'm asking you either remove or update the story," Aldrich said in a voice message to the Gazette. "The entire case was dismissed," he said.

The 4th Judicial District Attorney Michael Allen, a “law and order” Republican, did not comment on why he declined to prosecute Aldrich in 2021.

Aldrich’s father, an aging ex-MMA fighter turned porn actor named Aaron Franklin Brink, gave an interview to a local TV station in San Diego, where he lives, and voiced his relief—at finding out that his child isn’t “gay”:

They started telling me about the incident, a shooting involving multiple people. And then I go on to find out it’s a gay bar. I said, “God, is he gay?” I got scared, “Shit, is he gay?” And he’s not gay, so I said, “Phhhewww”… I am a conservative Republican. … We don’t do gay.

The attempts to claim that Aldrich’s supposed nonbinary identification means the murderous rampage wasn’t actually the predictable (and predicted) outcome of the hysterical campaign of demonization directed at the LGBTQ community in the past year, however, are simply lame excuses for what we all know has been going on: stochastic terrorism, focused particularly on transgender people and drag queens. Aldrich’s attempts to claim they are part of that community are not just lame, but outrageously insulting.

Certainly, the prosecutor in the case isn’t being fooled. District Attorney Michael Allen told reporters his office was confident it had evidence to establish a bias motivation in the murders.

“We are not going to tolerate actions against community members based on their sexual identity,” Allen said. “Members of that community have been harassed, intimidated and abused for too long.”

When asked by reporters whether Aldrich’s gender identity figured in the hate-crime charges, Allen said it was “part of the picture.”

Kraus, Aldrich’s ex-neighbor, however, also told The Daily Beast that anti-LGBTQ hate speech was a regular feature of Aldrich’s personality. “He said things sometimes that probably should have been alarming to me. He used the term “faggot” a lot. Most of the time it came from a place of anger.”

He also liked to shoot guns—notably, the same AR-15 he used in his rampage.

“We had this conversation talking about how dangerous these guns are, these weapons are,” said Kraus. “He had this idea that we would go out at some point to a range and he [would] teach me some gun safety and go out and shoot some target practice. We never ended up getting around to do that. But that conversation just kind of sits with me, because I know how I felt when I saw the gun and he showed it to me. He was like, ‘This is all legal. I’m totally allowed to have this.’ It was an assault-rifle type gun.”

But it was clear Aldrich was unconcerned about the real-world effects of wielding that weapon.  “There was one time where he made a ‘shooting his gun’ reference to a woman he was upset with,” Kraus said. “And this was one of the instances where his mom was like, ‘Andy, oh my God, no, you can’t say that.’”

Kraus also described an incident when Aldrich asked him if he’d like to hold the weapon. Kraus said he declined because it felt too dangerous.

Aldrich reportedly told Kraus: “It’s not the gun you’ve got to be afraid of; it’s the people.”

Republished with permission from Daily Kos.

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