The father of the suspected Colorado Springs shooter has provoked a backlash over comments he made over the armed attack on LGTBQ+ bar that killed five and wounded 17.
In a series of interviews, Aaron Brink told San Diego's CBS8 that when he first received a telephone call from his child's public defender, his first reaction was to question why his child was in the club.
"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, 'Phew …'"
His comments sparked anger online, condemning Brink for relief that his child was "only a mass murderer and not a homosexual".
Brink, a mixed martial arts coach, told CBS8 that he had taught his child to fight, saying he had offered praise "for violent behavior really early. I told him it works. It is instant and you'll get immediate results."
The alleged attacker, identified in court papers as 22-year-old Anderson Lee Aldrich, was ordered held without bail in an initial court appearance on Wednesday. The suspect sat slumped over in a chair, showing bruises to their face and neck apparently sustained during a violent apprehension by patrons at the club.
Prosecutors have not yet filed formal charges. Defense attorneys have said the suspect is nonbinary and uses they/them pronouns.
Of 17 people injured by gunshots in the attack, 11 remained hospitalized late on Wednesday, officials said. Those who were killed in the attack have been named as Raymond Green Vance, 22; Ashley Paugh, 35; Daniel Aston, 28; Kelly Loving, 40; and Derrick Rump, 38.
Brink, who lives in San Diego and is also known by his stage name, Dick Delaware, told the station that his family was Mormon and he is a conservative Republican.
"We don't do gay," he said in the interview, adding that though he held anti-gay views, there was no excuse for shooting people in a club.
Aldrich faces possible murder and hate crime charges.
"I'm so sorry, guys, for your loss," Brink said. "With no regard to politics, it's human life. I'm so sorry. My soul goes out to you."
In a subsequent interview, Brink said he did not know that Aldrich was non-binary. "What does that mean? I got to know because I was horrified he was gay. I was like, 'Oh my God. He's at a gay bar. He's gay.' I'm not homophobic or anything - but to find something out like that - I just didn't know".
Brink, 48, went on to explain that he had not raised his son: "As a child, he was taken away - not by me," he said, adding: "My ex-wife didn't want my son around me. I was an adult film star."
After seeing the violence Aldrich allegedly unleashed inside Q Nightclub four days ago, Brink said he wished he had been more involved with his child, whose grandparents petitioned a Texas court to change his name to erase "any connections" to his birth father.
"I failed him. I'm sorry, Nicholas or Anderson," Brink later said. "I wish that he, you know - if I gotta go fight somebody, I'm going in there with my fists. Fight like a man, then shake hands afterward, and then you're done. That's it. You don't go out there. You don't kill people."
Brink's comments came amid questions about warning signs that may have been missed. Last year, Aldrich was arrested after police said that he had threatened to blow up his mother's house in El Paso, Texas, where he had been living.
According to a press release from the El Paso county sheriff, Aldrich had threatened his mother with a "homemade bomb, multiple weapons and ammunition". Aldrich was charged with felony menacing and kidnapping concerning the bomb threat but the charges were not pursued.
For reasons still unclear, the incident failed to trigger Colorado's "red flag" laws that would have allowed authorities to seize Aldrich's guns.