We’re learning more today about the shooter in Saturday night’s massacre at an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs, including the fact that his grandfather is reportedly a sitting Republican California state Assemblymember representing San Diego County.
The latest news from Saturday’s Club Q nightclub shooting in Colorado Springs is that we have learned the names of three of the five deceased victims. CNN is reporting that Club Q bartenders Derrick Rump and Daniel Aston were both killed by the gunman with an AR-15, and the New York Times adds that patron Kelly Loving, a visitor from Denver, was also among those killed. We’ve also learned via CNN that the alleged gunman Anderson Aldrich will face (at current count) five counts of murder and five hate crime charges, or as hate crimes are called in the legal lexicon of the state of Colorado, “bias-motivated crime causing bodily injury.”
The hate crime charges confirm what many mourners have suspected, that there was a connection between the nightclub shooting and the spate of homophobic and transphobic attacks of the QAnon era. But there may be a blood-family connection too, as Vice reports the gunman Aldrich is “reportedly the grandson of California state lawmaker Randy Voepel.”
State Assemblymember Randy Voepel represents parts of San Diego and Riverside counties. A former mayor of Santee, California, Voepel is actually a lame duck member of the Assembly right now, having lost his seat to another current Republican in the Assembly, Marie Waldron, after their districts were largely merged via redistricting. Voepel has not yet returned comments to many media publications who’ve reached out.
But oh, he’s commenced in the past, alright. Shortly after the January 6 insurrection, Voepel told the San Diego Union-Tribune, “This is Lexington and Concord. First shots fired against tyranny,” and that “Tyranny will follow in the aftermath of the Biden swear-in on January 20th.”
Voepel served as co-chair of the Assembly's Veterans' Affairs committee, and sponsored legislation that aided veterans in California. He also, ironically, as Vice reports, supported a bill in 2018 that promoted June as LGBT Pride Month, which led to him being condemned California Family Council for being "openly hostile to Biblical values."
Meanwhile, the Denver Gazette reports that the alleged gunman, Aldrich, had a June 2021 incident where he apparently lodged a bomb threat against his own mother. “The El Paso County Sheriff's Office arrested a man with the same name and matching age in June 2021 in connection to a bomb threat that forced residents in a Lorson Ranch neighborhood in southeast Colorado Springs to evacuate from their homes for about three hours,” the Gazette reports. “Officials on Sunday would not confirm that 22-year-old Aldrich was the same man arrested in 2021; however, Howard Black, spokesman for the District Attorney's Office, said last year's incident will be part of the investigation of Saturday's mass shooting at the popular LGBTQ+ nightclub.”
As the Gazette notes, that sheriff’s office is also facing tough questions about why that 2021 bomb threat did not prompt them to use a “red-flag” law that would have disallowed Aldrich from having his guns legally. In that sense, this is in some ways shaping up to be a referendum on law enforcement decision-making, not unlike last May’s Uvalde, Texas school shooting.
But there is thankfully one key difference in this incident. A patron of the Club Q quickly tackled and disarmed the shooter, preventing an untold number of further killings, despite having vastly less force and firepower than did that Uvalde Police Department. That hero has been identified as 45-year-old Richard M. Fierro, an army veteran, who tells the New York Times, "I don’t know exactly what I did, I just went into combat mode."
Fierro, as it happens, wasn't even one of the LGBTQ patrons at the bar that night — he was at a table with his wife and daughter, he says, watching the Saturday drag show.
Image: (Left) Club Q via Facebook, (Right) State of California/California State Assembly