What moved a man to kill three people and wound nine others at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado has not been disclosed. But the suspect accused of carrying out the shooting spree, Robert Lewis Dear, made remarks about “baby parts” to investigators after his surrender, a law enforcement official told CNN.
Dear, 57, told them he has anti-abortion and anti-government views, but that doesn’t mean those opinions were his motive for allegedly shooting up the Colorado Springs clinic on Friday, the official said. It’s too early to tell, as investigators are still processing evidence.
After a nearly six-hour bloody standoff that left one police officer dead and five others wounded, the accused shooter dropped his gun after a SWAT team drove up in an armored police vehicle, a BearCat, and cornered him, the official said.
Law enforcement officers found propane tanks in the area of Dear’s car in the parking lot and believe he was trying to shoot them to cause an explosion, the official said.
‘Crime against women’
In the absence of an announced motive, public officials in Colorado and beyond are drawing their own conclusions about the attack.
It was a “crime against women receiving health care services,” said Attorney General Loretta Lynch. She pledged the full resources of her office to investigate.
“Inferences (could be made) from where it took place,” Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers told The Denver Post.
Vicki Cowart, president of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, went beyond an inference, saying the shooter “was motivated by opposition to safe and legal abortion.”
A hermit’s shanty
Dear is being held without bail in a Colorado Springs jail, according to the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office. He is due to appear in court Monday afternoon.
Shown in police photos with dark hair and a fluffy white beard, the suspect appears to have lived a long time in rural solitude in the Carolinas, then more recently in Colorado. Over a decade ago, he had some run-ins with the law while living in South Carolina, but was never convicted.
In 1997, Dear’s wife accused him of domestic assault, although no charges were pressed, according to records from the Colleton County Sheriff’s Office in South Carolina.
In 2002, Dear was charged with being a peeping Tom; those counts were dismissed.
In 2003, he was arrested and charged with two counts of animal cruelty, but he was found not guilty in a bench trial.
He later made his home in a hermit shanty in the mountains of North Carolina, CNN affiliate WLOS reported. It published a photo of a small, basic cabin in the woods of Buncombe County.
The sheriff’s office there knew Dear from a single civil citation issued in 2014 for allowing his dogs to run wild.
About a year ago, Dear chose the crossroads community of Hartsel, Colorado, as his home, according to public records. It is nestled in grassy plains and rolling foothills framed by Rocky Mountain ranges and is about an hour and 20 minutes’ drive from Colorado Springs.
Dear bought a spread — 65 miles west of the Planned Parenthood clinic — for $6,000.
Zigmond Post, a neighbor, said Dear brought him some anti-Obama pamphlets once. “That’s about all I’ve run into him,” he said.
It’s safe to say that few people knew who Dear was until he walked out of the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood after allegedly shooting 12 people and terrorizing many others.
Scanners relay police plans
Conversations captured over the police scanner gave glimpses into the drama inside the clinic as well as the strategic debate about how to stop the suspect and get his hostages to safety at the same time.
Joan Motolinia’s sister was among those inside. She called him Friday afternoon, and he could hear the shooting in the background, he said.
“She couldn’t say much because she was afraid,” Motolinia said, shedding tears as he recounted the call.
Beloved officer killed
Officer Garrett Swasey died along with two civilian victims in the hail of bullets. He was an elder in his church and a former figure skating artist.
Swasey was a University of Colorado-Colorado Springs officer who rushed to the clinic to offer his assistance. “There was no way any of us could have kept him here,” said UCCS Police Chief Brian McPike. “He was always willing to go. … He had an enthusiasm that was hard to quell.”
The Melrose, Massachusetts, native “found his calling as a police officer,” according to a statement from his family.
“Helping others brought him deep satisfaction and being a police officer was a part of him. In the end, his last act was for the safety and well-being of others and was a tribute to his life,” it said.
As of early Sunday afternoon, a fund-raising page set up for Swasey’s wife of 17 years, Rachel, and his two children — Elijah, 10 and Faith, 6 — had reached more than $70,000 of a stated goal of $100,000.
Colorado Springs Police Chief Peter Carey said the identities of the other two victims probably won’t be released until Monday, after autopsies have been performed.
Obama: ‘Enough is enough’
In a statement on Saturday, President Barack Obama offered praise for Swasey, condolences to the families of the victims and condemnation of the attack as another example of gun violence.
“This is not normal. We can’t let it become normal,” Obama said. “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.”
Planned Parenthood videos
Planned Parenthood has recently endured intense political and social opposition.
Eight undercover videos released over the summer by anti-abortion activists have stirred caustic criticism against the reproductive health clinic. The controversy has reached the halls of Congress, where conservative politicians have demanded the group’s defunding.
Planned Parenthood has said the videos, which alleged illegal fetal organ sales, were heavily edited and inaccurate.
At least three of the organization’s buildings have been vandalized since September, not long after the last video appeared.