On November 27th, a gunman killed three people and injured nine others at the Planned Parenthood office in Colorado Spring, Colorado, according to ABC News. The armed standoff reportedly lasted for five hours, after which the gunman was taken into custody by police.
According to Reuters, police identified the suspect as 57 year-old Robert Lewis Dear, who allegedly said "no more baby parts" after his arrest. Dear's alleged comment may have been a reference to videos released by the Center for Medical Progress, an anti-abortion group that has accused Planned Parenthood of allegedly selling fetal tissue. However, the Center for Medical Progress condemned the shooting spree as "barbaric" in a November 28th statement, calling Dear a "madman". (Hat tip to Huffington Post.)
Police records acquired by the Daily Beast indicate that Dear had a record of run-ins with law enforcement in South Carolina. For instance, Dear's wife called police after a domestic violence incident in 1997. Dear had also been arrested for a "peeping tom" incident in 2002 (the charges for which were later dismissed) and animal cruelty in 2003 (for which he was found not guilty).
On the evening of November 29th, hundreds of people attended a candlelight vigil for the shooting victims in Colorado Springs. An Associated Press video captured the community's grief Garrett Swasey, a University of Colorado police officer who was killed during the mass shooting.
Condemnation of the shooting was swift and strong. The Guardian reports that after a November 28th vigil at All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church in Colorado Springs, Rev. Nori Rost called the gunman a "domestic terrorist" who used a "weapon of war" to murder people.
Vicki Cowart, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Rocky Mountains, grieved for the dead and expressed gratitude to law enforcement in a November 27th press release. Cowart stressed that Planned Parenthood would not stop providing services, despite the current "poisonous environment that breeds acts of violence".
"We share the concerns of many Americans that the continued attacks against abortion providers and patients, as well as law enforcement officers, is creating a poisonous environment that breeds acts of violence. But, we will never back away from providing critical health care to millions of people who rely on and trust us every day."President Obama lamented the "easy accessibility" of guns in a November 28th statement about the attack.
"We don’t yet know what this particular gunman’s so-called motive was for shooting twelve people, or for terrorizing an entire community, when he opened fire with an assault weapon and took hostages at a Planned Parenthood center in Colorado. What we do know is that he killed a cop in the line of duty, along with two of the citizens that police officer was trying to protect. We know that law enforcement saved lives, as so many of them do every day, all across America. And we know that more Americans and their families had fear forced upon them.Media reports stress that the gunman's motive remains unclear. However, a mass shooting at a Planned Parenthood facility and a suspect who reportedly said "no more baby parts" both suggest that the gunman may have been an anti-abortion extremist. This tragedy reminds us that we must confront anti-abortion extremism in order to prevent future tragedies. No one should die because of right-wing extremism. No woman should live in fear of exercising her reproductive rights. No clinic staffer should have to accept violence as part of their job.
This is not normal. We can’t let it become normal. If we truly care about this -- if we’re going to offer up our thoughts and prayers again, for God knows how many times, with a truly clean conscience -- then we have to do something about the easy accessibility of weapons of war on our streets to people who have no business wielding them. Period. Enough is enough."
To read additional commentary, visit the following links.
RH Reality Check: Anti-Choice Leaders’ Response to Colorado Violence Reveals Tension Between Rhetoric and Actions
Progressive Secular Humanist: Christian Conservatives Celebrate Colorado Planned Parenthood Shooting
Los Angeles Times: Colorado embodies nation's divide over gun control