COLORADO SPRINGS, United States– Police have identified the lone gunman who surrendered Friday after killing three people, including a police officer, at a Planned Parenthood clinic in the city of Colorado Springs in the western U.S. state of Colorado.
Robert Dear, 59, a South Carolina native and son of a U.S. navy veteran, surrendered to police after allegedly wounding nine others — four civilians and five police officers — during a five-hour standoff, sources said.
Witness said Dear was seen “talking to himself” and brandishing a shotgun and automatic rifle, after parking his car and walking into the clinic at around noon.
During the dramatic standoff and shootout, police deployed an armored vehicle to crash through the walls of the clinic to free people trapped inside, according to witnesses, who said the shooter surrendered after a policeman shouted for him to stop.
Police were also investigating several unidentified bags for explosives brought by Dear inside and to the front of the building, Colorado Springs Police Department Lt. Catherine Buckley said.
The motive for the shooting is undetermined, although Planned Parenthood, a 99-year-old organization that provides contraceptive, planning and abortions to about 325,000 women a year, has been the target of anti-abortion extremists for 40 years.
The abortion issue is again causing national interest after an August article in the Washington Post revealed that tissue from aborted fetuses is routinely removed for research by women who work in the clinics.
The Post article caused reaction from Congress, with a number of anti-abortion politicians recently threatening again to introduce legislation banning the procedure and the use of fetal tissue in experiments.
The officer killed was 44-year-old Garrett Swasey, a father of two children and former ice-skating national champion, who worked for the University of Colorado’s Colorado Springs campus 10 miles (16 km) away, according to a statement released by the university.
He went to the scene “in support of an officer under fire,” the statement said.
“We don’t yet know if Planned Parenthood was in fact the target of this attack,” Vicki Cowart, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, said in a statement.
“We share the concerns of many Americans that extremists are creating a poisonous environment that feeds domestic terrorism in this country,” Cowart said, adding that all her staff had survived the attack.
Planned Parenthood, founded by two women in Brooklyn, New York in 1916, thanked law enforcement and the first responders for “saving lives.”
“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,” said CEO Cecile Richards. PNA/Xinhua