Media reports Sunday said outgoing Assemblyman Randy Voepel is a grandfather of the 22-year-old man accused of killing five at a Colorado Springs gay nightclub.
The Pulitzer Prize-winning Gazette said its sister paper, the online Denver Gazette, had learned from a relative, who wished to remain anonymous, that the suspect is the grandson of Voepel. That story confirmed an earlier report by Heavy.com that the alleged shooter, Anderson Lee Aldrich, is the son of Laura Voepel, daughter of the former Santee mayor.
Laura Voepel’s LinkedIn profile said she’s worked for nearly five years for a Colorado Springs business.
“There were calls to expel Voepel from the state Assembly after he made comments comparing the January 6 attacks to the Revolutionary War,” said Heavy.com. “Aldrich’s mother, Laura Voepel, has written posts praising Randy Voepel on Facebook and confirming he is her father.”
The New York Times said Sunday that a man with the same name and age as the club shooting suspect was arrested in June 2021 after a possible bomb threat in a Colorado Springs suburb.
“The man’s mother (identified as Laura Voepel) had called the police and said that she was not with her son and did not know where he was, but that he had threatened to hurt her with a bomb, ammunition and other weapons,” the Times reported.
Leslie Bowman told the Times that the incident took place at her home, where she had been renting a spare room to Laura Voepel.
“His mom had called me and said, ‘Don’t come home right now, there are some people looking for Andy,’” Bowman is quoted as saying, using Aldrich’s nickname.
Two days after the incident, Bowman arranged to have Voepel move out of her home, the Times said. “Once she was gone, I changed the code on the door, and I never saw or heard from her again,” Bowman said.
In July 2021, a Laura Voepel posted a query on the Sisters of Colorado Springs Facebook page.
“Does anyone know of a fantastic defense attorney,” she wrote. “I ask this with a heavy heart, but my family really needs some help at this time.”
In February, Voepel posted on the same group (for Mormon women): “Hello Sisters. Can anyone please recommend a great trauma/ptsd therapist?”
She was asked: For what age?
Voepel replied: 21 years old.
Laura Voepel didn’t immediately respond to a message via Facebook.
Randy Voepel, 72, was defeated by fellow GOP Assembly member Marie Waldron, trailing at 32.2% to 67.8% in latest results from the newly drawn 75th Assembly District.
The gunman opening fire inside a LGBTQ nightspot in Colorado Springs also injured 25 others before being stopped by “heroic” clubgoers, police said.
Authorities on Sunday said they were investigating whether the attack was motivated by hate.
Police said Aldrich used a “long rifle.” He was taken into police custody shortly after the shooting began and was being treated for injuries, according to officials.
The shooting was reminiscent of the 2016 Pulse club massacre when a gunman killed 49 people at the gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, before he was fatally shot by police.
It unfolded as LGBTQ communities and allies around the world prepared to mark the Transgender Day of Remembrance on Sunday, an annual observance to honor victims of transphobic violence.
Club Q, a long-standing venue in a modest strip mall, was described by many as a safe haven for the LGBTQ community in Colorado’s second-largest city.
Police said the initial phone call about the shooting came in just before midnight, and that the suspect was apprehended within minutes thanks to the quick action of law enforcement and the bravery of at least two patrons who intervened.
The shooter burst in with a rifle, a military-style flak jacket and what appeared to be six magazines of ammunition, the New York Times reported, citing the club owners, who said they did not know the man.
Multiple firearms were found at the venue, including the rifle, Colorado Springs Police Chief Adrian Vasquez told a news conference on Sunday.
One patron, Joshua Thurman, choked up as he told reporters that he was dancing in the club when he first heard gunshots. He sought refuge in a dressing room and locked himself inside with others, praying for his life and thinking about loved ones.
“We heard everything,” Thurman said. “We heard more shots fired. We heard the assailant being beat up by someone that I assumed that tackled him. We heard the police come in. We heard them yelling at him. We heard them saying, ‘Take certain people because they’re critical.'”
Several of the injured were in critical condition and being treated at local hospitals, authorities said.
Club Q called the incident a “hate attack” in a statement on Facebook and thanked the “heroic customers” for subduing the gunman.
Reuters contributed to this report.