Monday 16 September 2019

'No more baby parts': US abortion clinic shooting suspect tells police

The gunman, Robert L Dear
The gunman, Robert L Dear Newsdesk Newsdesk

The man who police say staged a deadly shooting attack on a Planned Parenthood clinic that offers abortion services said "no more baby parts" after his arrest.

A law enforcement official who confirmed the comment by the 57-year-old suspect, Robert Lewis Dear, could not elaborate about the remark.

Mayhem: Emergency services load a wounded person into an ambulance
Mayhem: Emergency services load a wounded person into an ambulance

Planned Parenthood, a national women's health care provider that offers abortions at some clinics, revealed that witnesses said the gunman was motivated by his opposition to abortion.

Police say Dear stormed the Colorado Springs clinic on Friday, killing three people, including a police officer, before he surrendered.

The attack thrust the clinic to the centre of the debate over Planned Parenthood, which was re-ignited in July when anti-abortion activists released undercover video they said showed the organisation's personnel negotiating the sale of foetal organs.

Planned Parenthood has denied seeking any payments beyond legally permitted reimbursement costs for donating the organs to researchers.

Lieutenant Catherine Buckley talks to the media after the shooting (AP)
Lieutenant Catherine Buckley talks to the media after the shooting (AP)

But the National Abortion Federation says it has since seen a rise in threats at clinics nationwide.

The anti-abortion activists, part of a group called the Centre for Medical Progress, denounced the "barbaric killing spree in Colorado Springs by a violent madman" and offered prayers for the dead and wounded and for their families.

The facility provides women's health services and has long been the site of regular anti-abortion protests.

A Roman Catholic priest who has held weekly Mass in front of the clinic for 20 years said Dear was not part of his group.

Dear, who was in custody and is expected to make his first court appearance on Monday, was described by neighbours as reclusive.

They said he stashed food in the woods, avoided eye contact and warned neighbours about government spying.

At a vigil on Saturday at All Souls Unitarian Church, the Rev Nori Rost called the gunman a "domestic terrorist". At the back of the room, someone held a sign that said: "Women's bodies are not battlefields. Neither is our town."

Vicki Cowart, the regional head of Planned Parenthood, drew a standing ovation when she walked to the pulpit. She promised to quickly reopen the clinic, saying: "We will adapt. We will square our shoulders and we will go on."

She said the gunman "broke in" to the clinic on Friday but did not get past a locked door leading to the main part of the facility.

She said there was no armed security when the shooting began. He later surrendered to police after an hours-long stand-off.

In the car park of the two-storey building, one man said the gunman shot at him as he pulled his car out, blasting two holes in his windscreen.

Inside, one worker ducked under a table and called her brother to tell him to take care of her children if she was killed.

A University of Colorado police officer was killed. Two civilians also died, though their identities have not been released. Five other officers and four people were taken to hospital.

Colorado governor John Hickenlooper said the city is mourning and praised the bravery of first responders. He said the nation is wrestling with the causes of violence but that it is too early to discuss that while the city is reeling.

The attack marked the latest mass shooting to stun the nation, and drew the now-familiar questions about a gunman's motives and whether anyone, from government to relatives, could have done anything to prevent an attack.

Those who knew the 6ft 4in 250lb Dear said he seemed to have few religious or political leanings.

Neighbours who lived near Dear's former South Carolina home say he hid food in the woods as if he was a survivalist and that he lived off selling prints of his uncle's paintings of Southern plantations and the Masters golf tournament.

John Hood said when he moved to Walterboro, Dear was living in a mobile home next door.

Mr Hood said Dear rarely talked to them, and when he did, he tended to offer unsolicited advice such as recommending they put a metal roof on their house so the US government could not spy on them.

"He was really strange and out there, but I never thought he would do any harm," he said.

PA Media

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