Accused Colorado gunman lived 'reclusive' life
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) -- The man accused of opening fire at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs lived a troubled, isolated life in the mountains of South Carolina and Colorado, but acquaintances said he never hinted that he would target the organization.
Robert Lewis Dear, 57, will make his first appearance in court Monday. He is accused of killing a police officer and two civilians -- an Iraq war veteran and a mother of two -- who were accompanying separate friends to the clinic. The rampage touched off an hourslong standoff and shootout Friday that also left nine other people in the hospital. Dear's court appearance will be done by video Monday afternoon in Colorado Springs.
Colorado Springs police on Sunday said they would not disclose any information on the motive for the attack.
Dear has been described by acquaintances as a reclusive loner who didn't seem to have strong political or social opinions.
Neighbors who live near Dear's former South Carolina home say he hid food in the woods and lived off selling prints of his uncle's paintings of Southern plantations and the Masters golf tournament. After he moved to Colorado, he once gave a neighbor pamphlets opposing President Barack Obama.
"He didn't talk about them or anything. He just said, `Look them over when you get a chance,"' Zigmond Post said.
A law enforcement official said Dear told authorities "no more baby parts" after being arrested, part of a rambling statement that investigators are parsing to understand the reasoning.
The law enforcement official who recounted Dear's statement spoke on condition of anonymity because the official was not allowed to publicly discuss the ongoing investigation. The official said the "no more baby parts" comment was among a number of statements he made to authorities after his arrest, making it difficult to know his specific motivation.
Still, U.S. Attorney John Walsh said investigators have been in touch with lawyers from the Justice Department's Civil Rights and National Security divisions, suggesting officials could pursue federal charges in addition to state homicide ones. One possible avenue is the 1994 Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, which makes it a crime to injure or intimidate clinic patients and employees.
"The case may fit the criteria for a federal domestic terrorism case, but based on my experience, I would be very surprised if this is not simply a local prosecution," said Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers, a former U.S. attorney and state attorney general. "Murder charges will be more than adequate on the local level."
Planned Parenthood said witnesses believe the gunman was motivated by his opposition to abortion. Suthers said it's unclear whether the shooting was intended to send an ideological message.
"That may or may not be the case here. We just have to see how things unravel," Suthers said.
Whatever authorities decide is sure to be controversial, given the political murkiness of Dear's statements and the debate over Planned Parenthood, which was reignited in July when anti-abortion activists released undercover video they said showed the group's personnel negotiating the sale of fetal organs. The organization has denied seeking any payments beyond legally permitted reimbursement of the costs for donating the organs to researchers.
Planned Parenthood has said that Colorado's 19 other clinics would be open for business Monday. The Colorado Springs clinic, though, has been heavily damaged and will be closed for an uncertain amount of time, said Vicki Cowart, the regional head of Planned Parenthood.The head of the Colorado Planned Parenthood clinic where a gunman killed three people and injured nine others said in a statement Saturday that the man held anti-abortion views.
“We are learning that eyewitnesses confirm that the man who will be charged with the tragic and senseless shooting that resulted in the deaths of three people and injures to nine others at Planned Parenthood’s health center in Colorado Springs was motivated by opposition to safe and legal abortion,” Planned Parenthood Rocky Mountain CEO Vicki Cowart said.
“This is an appalling act of violence targeting access to health care and terrorizing skilled and dedicated health care professionals.”
A law enforcement official also told the Associated Press that Richard Lewis Dear, 57, made a “no more baby parts” remark following his arrest in the deadly rampage Friday. The official told AP he couldn’t elaborate about the comment and spoke on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to speak publicly about the ongoing investigation.
The attack thrust the clinic to the center of the ongoing debate over Planned Parenthood, which was reignited in July when anti-abortion activists released undercover video they said showed the organization’s personnel negotiating the sale of fetal organs.
Cowart also said Saturday that Dear "broke in" to the clinic but didn't get past a locked door leading to the main part of the facility.
Cowart said there was no armed security on Friday when Dear launched his attack but she defended the level of security in place at the time, saying people going to a health clinic shouldn't have to walk through metal detectors.
Attorney General Loretta Lynch also said Saturday that Friday’s attack at the clinic was a crime against women receiving health care services. She also said it was a clear attack against Americans’ right to safety and against law enforcement seeking to protect and serve.
She expressed her thoughts and prayers to the shooting victims, including police officer Garrett Swasey, who was killed in the line of duty. Lynch said Swasey gave his life in order to keep others safe.
Dear, a North Carolina native, surrendered to police after a five-hour standoff. Dear was seen wearing a trench coat and carrying a rifle when he stormed the clinic.
Those who knew Dear told the AP Saturday e seemed to have few religious or political leanings. He also was described as a longer who lived in a mountain cabin in the North Carolina woods without electricity or running water.
"If you talked to him, nothing with him was very cognitive -- topics all over place," said James Russell, who lives a few hundred feet from Dear in Black Mountain. A cross made of twigs hung Saturday on the wall of Dear's pale yellow shack.
Neighbors of Dear’s in North Carolina said the man kept mostly to himself and Russell said that two topics he never heard Dear talk about during his ramblings were religion or abortion.
Dear's cabin is a half-mile up a curvy dirt road about 15 miles west of Asheville, N.C. He also had a trailer in the nearby town of Swannanoa.
Other neighbors knew Dear but didn't want to give their names because they said they were fearful he might retaliate, the Associated Press reported.
In the small town of Hartsel, Colorado, about 60 miles west of Colorado Springs, about a dozen police vehicles and fire trucks were parked outside a small white trailer belonging to Dear located on a sprawling swath of land. Property records indicate Dear purchased the land about a year ago.
A law enforcement official said authorities searched the trailer Saturday but found no explosives. The official, who has direct knowledge of the case, said authorities also talked with a woman who was living in the trailer. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to speak publicly about the ongoing investigation.
Dear was in jail Saturday on what officials said were "administrative holds." Charges apparently won't be lodged until he appears in court Monday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.