Colorado Planned Parenthood attack suspect uttered 'no more baby parts' after arrest
Robert Lewis Dear has several cabins and trailers in remote parts of North Carolina and Colorado
Robert Lewis Dear, the suspect in Friday's deadly Planned Parenthood attack in Colorado Springs, frightened neighbours, had several run-ins with police and lived in remote cabins and trailers tucked into thick woods in North Carolina and Colorado.
He uttered the words "no more baby parts" to police after his arrest, according to a law enforcement official, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to speak publicly about the ongoing investigation. The official did not elaborate on the comment.
The utterance would appear to be a reference to the controversy surrounding the organization's health services, which include abortion, and its role in delivering fetal tissue to medical researchers. It could hint at a possible motive for the rampage, though NBC reported that sources said investigators still did not know for certain what motivated the gunman.
Earlier Saturday, authorities weren't ready to discuss a possible motive after interviewing the 57-year-old Dear, Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers said.
However, people can make "inferences from where it took place," said Suthers, a former state attorney general who also suggested Dear's mental health was part of the investigation.
But those who knew Dear said he seemed to have few religious or political leanings.
"If you talked to him, nothing with him was very cognitive — topics all over the place," said James Russell, who lives a few hundred feet from Dear in the North Carolina town of Black Mountain. A cross made of twigs hung Saturday on the wall of Dear's pale yellow shack.
Dear's South Carolina neighbours say he hid food in the woods and liked to skinny dip.
John Hood said Saturday that when he moved to the small town of Walterboro about 80 km west of Charleston, Dear was living in a double-wide mobile home next door.
Hood said Dear made money by selling prints of his uncle Bill Stroud's paintings of Southern plantations and the Masters golf tournament.
Hood said that Dear rarely talked to them, and when he did, he offered unsolicited advice, including recommending that Hood put a metal roof on his home so the U.S. government couldn't spy on him.
Police say Dear entered the Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs and opened fire on Friday. The five-hour siege that followed included several gun battles with police as patients and staff members took cover under furniture and inside locked rooms.
By the time the shooter surrendered, three people were dead — including a police officer — and nine others were wounded.
Police say all nine people who were taken to hospitals on Friday were shot but there were also three officers who were injured in other ways. All are in good condition and expected to recover.
There were 24 other people who were evacuated unharmed from the clinic. In addition, police say 300 people sheltered in place at a nearby shopping centre, including a grocery store, over several hours as police responded to the shooting.
The shooting is being investigated by state and local authorities as well as the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
Planned Parenthood said all its staff members at the clinic were safe and that it did not know whether the organization was the target of the attack.
Ozy Licano said he was in the parking lot of the two-story building and trying to escape in his car when the gunman looked at him.
"He came out, and we looked each other in the eye, and he started aiming, and then he started shooting," Licano said. "I saw two holes go right through my windshield as I was trying to quickly back up and he just kept shooting and I started bleeding."
Licano drove away and took refuge at a nearby grocery store.
For others, the first sign that something was wrong came when police appeared and ushered people to the second floor. Planned Parenthood employee Cynthia Garcia told her mother, Tina Garcia, that the officers wouldn't say why they were gathering everybody together. Then she heard the gunshots.
Her daughter and the others were holed up for hours while the standoff raged, Tina Garcia said.
For hours, police had no communication with the shooter other than hearing his intermittent gunfire from inside the Colorado Springs clinic. Officers eventually moved in, shouted at the gunman and persuaded him to surrender, police said.
Dear has had several run-ins with police. In 1997, his then-wife said he hit her and pushed her out a window after locking her out of their home. A neighbour accused him of peering into her home, but a Peeping Tom charge against Dear was dismissed a month after it was filed. Police were also called to his home after his neighbour's dog was shot with a pellet gun.
Dear lived for years in a backwoods cabin that had no electricity or running water in the North Carolina mountains, about 24 km west of Asheville. There were "no trespassing" signs at the property and at a trailer in the nearby town of Swannanoa, N.C.
About a dozen police vehicles and fire trucks were parked Saturday near a small white trailer in the Colorado town of Hartsel, about 100 km west of the Planned Parenthood clinic.
Residents of Hartsel said that the man arrested in the shooting lived in the trailer and would occasionally be seen at the town's post office.
Jamie Heffelman, owner of the Highline Cafe in Hartsel, says nobody in the small rural community knew Dear because he never said much. Records show Dear purchased the property in Hartsel about a year ago.
Clinic to reopen soon
The regional head of Planned Parenthood promises to quickly reopen the Colorado Springs clinic and continue to offer health care services to anyone who needs them.
Vicki Cowart spoke at the first of several vigils planned for victims Saturday and drew a standing ovation as she walked to the church pulpit.
Earlier, Rev. Nori Rost called the gunman a "domestic terrorist." In the back of the room, someone held a sign that said "Women's bodies are not battlefields. Neither is our town."
University of Colorado police officer Garrett Swasey, 44, a six-year veteran of the force, was killed during the siege. He was married and had a son and daughter, according to the website of his church, Hope Chapel in Colorado Springs.