A man accused of killing three, including a police officer, when he attacked a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, Colo. was arrested after a tense five-hour standoff with police Friday.
Police have not yet identified a motive for the suspect, 57-year-old Robert Lewis Dear, but many speculate a conservative, pro-life stance may have fueled what some are calling a terroristic act towards women, including the Planned Parenthood branch of the Rocky Mountains.
“Our hearts go out to everyone involved in this tragic situation. Planned Parenthood has strong security measures in place, works closely with law enforcement agencies, and has a very strong safety record,” the organization said in a statement released Friday during the active situation.
“We don’t yet know the full circumstances and motives behind this criminal action, and we don’t yet know if Planned Parenthood was in fact the target of this attack. We share the concerns of many Americans that extremists are creating a poisonous environment that feeds domestic terrorism in this country. We will never back away from providing care in a safe, supportive environment that millions of people rely on and trust.”
A police officer, identified as Garrett Swasey of the University of Colorado Springs Police Department, died while responding to the shooting. Two other civilians were also killed in the attack. Nine others, including five officers, were wounded NBC News reports. Gunshots were first reported around 11:38 a.m. Dear started his rampage in the parking lot before entering the building, a law enforcement officer told NBC. It wasn’t until 5 p.m. that Dear walked out of the facility, where he was handcuffed and taken into police custody.
Witnesses who were near or on the scene of the crime tell a chilling account of Dear’s “stone cold” demeanor. From NBC:
“I heard everyone in the lobby screaming ‘Get down! Get down!’ and then I saw a gunman walking with a shotgun just shooting randomly outside of Planned Parenthood,” Kentanya Craion said after getting out of the building.
The gunman “seemed calm, but crazy,” she added, describing the man in a hunter’s jacket and hat as “mumbling and ranting while he was shooting.”
She said she ran into an open room with two others where they barricaded themselves inside for about five hours as they heard shots ring out.
Authorities soon tapped into the building’s video surveillance system, and were able to monitor the gunman’s movements, officials said. Several people escaped during the ordeal, thanks in part to police personnel who rammed the side of the building with a truck, officials told NBC News. Police officers who responded were shot at with officers describing how they were “pinned down” by gunfire.
President Obama was notified of the situation Friday. Presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton took to Twitter to express her thoughts about the horrifying shooting.
Cecile Richards, the president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America — who in recent months has dealt with an onslaught of criticism due to edited videos appearing to show the organization selling fetal tissue from abortions — praised law enforcement for their swift response to the shooting.
“Our hearts go out to the families and loved ones of the brave law enforcement officers who put themselves in harm’s way in Colorado Springs,” she said. “We are profoundly grateful for their heroism in helping to protect all women, men and young people as they access basic health care in this country.”
But many others in the nation, frustrated with both a “war” on women’s rights and the curious nature of Dear’s arrest, took to Twitter to express those things not said by Planned Parenthood or police officials.
We’ll keep you updated with the latest.
SOURCE: NBC | PHOTO CREDIT: Police Handout