COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado — The man suspected of killing three people at a Colorado Planned Parenthood is due in court Monday in a case that has united even staunch opponents in the abortion debate.
Robert Lewis Dear told authorities he is anti-abortion and talked about “baby parts,” according to a law enforcement official. But it’s still not clear what prompted the rampage Friday that also left nine people wounded.
The attack brought common ground between Planned Parenthood’s leadership and conservative presidential candidate Mike Huckabee: Both called it an act of terrorism.
“I think there’s a lot of belief that this qualifies as a form of domestic terrorism,” Planned Parenthood Chief Experience Officer Dawn Laguens said.
Huckabee echoed that sentiment.
“What he did is domestic terrorism, and what he did is absolutely abominable — especially to us in the pro-life movement, because there’s nothing about any of us that would condone or in any way look the other way on something like this,” Huckabee said.
Dear, 57, surrendered Friday after a nearly six-hour long standoff.
There are indications the deadly rampage could have been worse. Authorities found propane tanks near Dear’s car in the parking lot and believe he intended to shoot them to cause an explosion, the official said.
‘Crime against women’
Despite the lack of an official motive, public officials in Colorado and beyond are drawing their own conclusions about the attack.
“You can certainly infer what (the motive) may have been in terms of where it took place and the manner in which it took place,” Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers said.
It was a “crime against women receiving health care services,” Attorney General Loretta Lynch said. She pledged the full resources of her office to investigate.
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 apparently lived in 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.
Officer, veteran and mother slain
Officer Garrett Swasey died along with two civilian victims in the hail of bullets. He was an elder in his church and a former champion figure skater.
Swasey was a University of Colorado-Colorado Springs officer who rushed to the clinic to help.
“There was no way any of us could have kept him here,” UCCS Police Chief Brian McPike said. “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 Sunday night, a fundraising page set up for Swasey’s wife of 17 years, Rachel, and his two children — Elijah, 10 and Faith, 6 — had reached more than $91,000 of a stated goal of $100,000.
Ke’Arre Stewart, 29, and Jennifer Markovsky, 35, were also killed in the shooting, officials said Sunday.
Stewart was a U.S. Army veteran who’d served in Iraq, his sister, Temprest Lloyd, told CNN. He was the father of two daughters.
Lloyd, who’s spoken with police and the coroner about the shooting, said her brother called 911 during the attack and told others at Planned Parenthood to take cover.
“He was able to save a lot of lives and stop other people from possibly losing their lives, and I’m proud of him for that,” she said.
Stewart’s wife told CNN affiliate KKTV that their family is seeking justice.
Markovsky’s father, John Ah-King, told KKTV that he was heartbroken.
“I couldn’t believe it. I just messaged her Thursday to say Happy Thanksgiving,” he told The Denver Post.
Sister-in-law Julia Miller told the Post that Markovsky was a stay-at-home mom who was devoted to her two children.
“She’s just a really sweet woman that would do anything for everyone,” Miller said, according to the newspaper.
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.