Friday, 3 Feb 2023

Club Q shooting suspect had racist, violent website, ex-neighbor says

The suspected Club Q shooter created a website that featured a racist video about committing acts of violence against minorities and public figures, an ex-neighbor told the Associated Press on Wednesday, and a companion website appears to host four videos taken shortly before the Nov. 19 shooting began.

Anderson Lee Aldrich, who faces 305 charges stemming from the shooting at the LGBTQ nightclub, created the website as a “free speech” forum, said Aldrich’s ex-neighbor, Xavier Kraus. The website, which was reviewed by the Denver Post, features a six-minute video describing various types of mass shooting “targets.” The site also includes a small, anonymous web forum filled with racist posts and images. The website’s only rules, it says, are “no CP and no spamming,” using the internet slang for child pornography.

The FBI asked Kraus about the website, which was first reported Tuesday night by NBC News. A spokesperson with the FBI’s Denver office referred questions from the Denver Post to prosecutors, and a spokesman for District Attorney Michael Allen declined to comment Wednesday.

The FBI spokesperson did confirm that the agency received a tip about Aldrich in June 2021, shortly before Aldrich allegedly threatened family members with a bomb and other weapons. The spokesperson told the Denver Post that the FBI contacted the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office, which arrested Aldrich the next day. The FBI closed their assessment a month later because Aldrich was facing state charges, the spokesperson said. Those charges were later dropped, and local authorities have refused to comment on the 2021 investigation.

The suspect was formally charged Tuesday with killing Ashley Paugh, Raymond Green Vance, Kelly Loving, Daniel Davis Aston and Derrick Rump. Though the suspect has been charged with bias-motivated crimes, authorities have not publicly released any evidence suggesting a motive in the shooting. Law enforcement records from the suspect’s 2021 arrest verified by the Associated Press allege that Aldrich had planned to become “the next mass killer.”

According to publicly available data, the website that Kraus linked to the suspect was created in June 2022. An attached “brother site,” registered a month earlier, leads to a page with links to four videos, all of which are timestamped to shortly before the shooting began. The videos are titled “stream tests.”

At least two of the videos posted to the second website appear to be taken from inside a vehicle. In one, the camera pans, showing the Toyota emblem in the center of the steering wheel. In an affidavit describing the shooting, police describe the suspect’s car as a 2005 Toyota Highlander.

At another point in a second video, the lower half of a round face with facial hair similar to the suspect’s can briefly be seen reflected in the rearview mirror. The video is timestamped on the website as being posted on Nov. 19, the night of the attack. The vehicle’s clock shows 11:44 p.m., 12 minutes before police received the first call about gunfire at Club Q.

A third video shows a brief glimpse into a messy interior of an apartment with what appears to be a black vest near a coffee table. Police say the gunman wore a ballistic vest during the shooting, and Kraus said his ex-neighbor once showed him body armor. Kraus told NBC News that the apartment in the video was Aldrich’s.

The “brother site” appears to have previously hosted the livestream of the Buffalo mass shooting, during which Black shoppers were targeted at a grocery store in May. Ten people were killed in that attack, and the suspect pleaded guilty in late November to murder, attempted murder and hate crime charges. The site was registered shortly after the Buffalo attack, and a link to the previous version of the site was then posted to another website known for its racist and violent content.

The Buffalo shooting was one of several recent mass shootings that were live-streamed by the perpetrator. The FBI declined to comment when asked if they believed the Club Q suspect was attempting to live stream the shooting.

The websites provide the most recent glimpse into Aldrich’s online history since the shooting began. The suspect, whose attorneys say is nonbinary and uses they/them pronouns, changed their legal name in 2016 with the help of their grandparents in order to distance themself from their father. That man, Aaron Brink, has a history of arrests and substance use, and was largely not present in their child’s life.

The suspect was also the subject of online harassment shortly before they changed their name. A webpage created in 2015 features a slew of insults and accusations aimed at the suspect and their family.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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