DENVER, Nov 30 – The man arrested over a shooting spree that left three people dead and nine wounded at a prominent family planning center in Colorado Springs makes his first court appearance.
Friday’s nearly six-hour standoff again put the United States’ gun culture in the spotlight and also triggered renewed scrutiny of Planned Parenthood, a nationwide health provider that carries out abortions and has faced violence and threats in the past.
Robert Lewis Dear, 57, a bearded drifter who surrendered to police at the scene, is expected to eventually face state charges of murder and attempted murder.
Dear will appear from a courtroom facility at the El Paso County Jail and the hearing starts at 1:30 pm (2030 GMT) on Monday, when a judge will advise him of his rights.
Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers told ABC’s “This Week” talk show on Sunday that police have yet to disclose what Dear told them under interrogation as to his motive.
But asked if he thought the clinic was specifically targeted, Suthers said: “It certainly appears that way.”
NBC News, citing two law enforcement officials, reported that Dear mentioned “no more baby parts” when questioned.
Police named the two civilians killed as Jennifer Markovsky, 35, and Ke’Arre Marcell Stewart, 29.
The third victim was previously identified as Garrett Swasey, 44, a campus officer at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs who had raced to the scene of the shooting.
Colorado Springs, the state’s second-largest city, is still reeling from the attack.
Numerous vigils were held during the weekend across the city known for its conservative political bent and fundamental religious organizations.
Colorado Springs, which was blanketed by snow as the drama unfolded over several hours into the early evening Friday, is also ringed by three military bases and the US Air Force Academy.
Concern for the victims and praise for police and law enforcement personnel quickly descended into pressure on the political front, including for tighter gun laws.
President Barack Obama, no stranger to issuing somber calls for action in the wake of armed tragedy, declared “enough is enough.”
– ‘Damage has been done’ –
There was also exasperation at the local level and calls for better protection for organizations that provide abortion services in the United States, where the procedure remains highly divisive.
“We need to call the threats of violence and the intimidation of health care providers and patients what it is — domestic terrorism,” Karen Middleton, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado, said in a statement.
“More public officials in Colorado and across the country, not just advocacy groups and the people on the frontlines, need to take a stand opposing domestic terrorism and supporting women’s health.”
Joy Garscadden, a long-time Planned Parenthood advocate, told The Denver Post at one vigil: “I don’t know if this guy is anything other than your run-of-the-mill psycho person with easy access to weapons.
“It doesn’t matter. The damage has been done.”
Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains CEO and president Vicki Cowart praised the 15 clinic employees “who did what they needed to do to protect everyone in the building.”
The clinic had been targeted by repeated protests and had a sophisticated security system in place that police were able to tap into and use to track down the gunman inside the building, said Suthers, the mayor.
The shooting was the second in weeks in Colorado Springs to leave several victims.
On Halloween, a man armed with a semi-automatic rifle, a revolver and a pistol gunned down a bicyclist and two women at a house for women fighting alcoholism and drug abuse.
He was killed shortly after in an exchange of gunfire with police.