Fear, horror, disbelief among witnesses of Planned Parenthood shooting

Posted at 3:32 PM, Nov 28, 2015
and last updated 2015-11-28 17:32:31-05
By Greg Botelho and Faith Karimi


(CNN) — A “cold, stone face”: That’s what Ozy Licano saw when he and the gunman locked eyes Friday in the parking lot of a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood clinic.

“Five seconds, we stared right at each other … and in those five seconds, bullet holes passed through my window,” he said.

Planned Parenthood shooting suspect confirmed as Robert L. Dear.

Planned Parenthood shooting suspect confirmed as Robert L. Dear.

“He was looking directly at my face; he was aiming at my head. I could see it in his eyes.”

As bullets ripped through his windshield, as he started bleeding from his mouth and face, Licano feared that the shooter — later identified by police as 57-year-old Robert Lewis Dear — had hit him.

Thankfully, no bullets struck the 61-year-old Licano. After finding shelter in a nearby grocery store, he discovered that he had merely superficial wounds from the shattered glass.

But University of Colorado Police Officer Garrett Swasey and two civilians were killed in the attack. City police Lt. Catherine Buckley said four civilians and five police officers who had received gunshot wounds were in good condition at nearby hospitals.

‘I saw him shoot up and down’

Certainly, this wasn’t what Licano expected when he dropped off his friends at the clinic and parked in a handicapped spot near the door. He was sitting in his car, texting on his phone as he waited for them, when something caught his eye: a man crawling up to the entrance.

Licano soon realized why the man was on his hands and knees: The shooter was not far behind.

“He just started shooting up the entryway,” the Mananola, Colorado, resident recalled. “I saw him shoot up and down.”

At that point, Licano admitted, “I kind of lost it. I tried to get out of my car and run.”

He reconsidered, though, putting his car in reverse and backing out. He met the gaze of the shooter — whom he later described as an older, bearded man wearing a hat with ear flaps and hunting clothes — and braced himself.

Though he doesn’t know what happened the man crawling through the parking lot, Licano himself managed to get away. He found refuge in the King Soopers grocery store, where people tended to his wounds, called 911 and hunkered down for fear the carnage could spread.

‘Terrifying’ sights, sounds at nearby shops

By then, the people inside had gotten the word to take cover. Terrified shoppers huddled in a strip mall’s back rooms as workers and customers at surrounding shops tried to make sense of what they were hearing and seeing and keep themselves safe.

Tessa Smart was working at a chiropractor’s office when she saw a bullet whiz “right by the door and hit something.” She ran to her desk, grabbed her keys and then “fumbled at the door, trying to find one to lock it.”

“As I was doing that,” Smart said, “I was seeing the police commotion outside: police running everywhere, ducking behind cars with guns.”

Jill Lavelle saw it too from a nail salon.

“Seeing the SWAT members squatting down (with) their shields and their riot gear, with their automatic rifles out … I never have experienced anything like that before,” Lavelle said.

A worker at the salon, Denise Speller, heard at least 10 gunshots and saw a police officer get hit.

“It was terrifying,” she said.

Woman who hid in her car: ‘I was afraid’

Peggy Masias had just picked up a few things at King Soopers supermarket when she overheard talk of a shooting. She went outside and saw police cars by the nearby Chase Bank.

“Someone from King Soopers said, ‘I wouldn’t stand around. I’d get to my car and get out of here,’ ” Masias said. “So I started running.”

When she got to her car, Masias heard a yell to “get down,” followed by a “pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop.” She got into her car, got on the floorboard and tried calling her husband.

“I was afraid,” she said, adding Saturday that she “keeps replaying” the episode in her head. “I was worried about being there and something happening and my family not knowing where I am.”

Masias estimated that she stayed cramped in her car for 20 minutes before driving away. Others hunkered down longer in the grocery store, other stores and the bank, which is where several of the injured fled.

Then there were those holed up in the Planned Parenthood clinic itself, who endured six hours of horror before Dear surrendered.

Joan Motolinia’s sister was one of them. She managed to call him from inside the clinic Friday afternoon.

“I heard the shooting,” Motolinia said, choking up. “She couldn’t say too much, because she was afraid.”

CNN’s Catherine E. Shoichet contributed to this report.