Colorado gunman a stranger to local pro-lifers
Shooting | Groups offer prayers for shooter’s victims and repeat denunciations of all forms of violence
by Kiley Crossland
Posted 11/30/15, 04:53 pm
As Robert Lewis Dear made his first court appearance today to be formally charged with murdering three people at a Planned Parenthood facility in Colorado Springs, Colo., on Friday, investigators remained tight-lipped about possible motives for the shooting rampage. At the request of investigators, the judge sealed records in the case, keeping secret information listed on Dear’s arrest warrant and the search warrant for his home.
But local pro-life leaders say Dear, 57, was a stranger to the pro-life community in Colorado Springs and not a part of any outreaches or activities.
“We know each other and work together on projects,” said Diane Foley, president and CEO of Life Network, which has three pregnancy centers in the Colorado Springs area. “We would know if this was someone who had been a part of any of the groups. … [Dear] doesn’t speak for any of us.”
Life Network released a statement Saturday, saying its members are praying for the families of the victims, the injured, and those traumatized: “Life Network is deeply saddened by the acts of senseless violence that took place at Planned Parenthood yesterday. There is no justification for the taking of innocent lives, and our community is suffering as a result of this event.”
Bob Enyart, a spokesman for Colorado Right to Life (CRTL), said his organization has received pushback since Friday’s shooting by those who mistakenly associate violence against abortionists with the pro-life community. Enyart said CRTL does not condone Dear’s actions: “He’s our enemy. He kills innocent people. That’s what we oppose.”
CRTL has gathered more than 500,000 signatures from pro-life Colorado residents for its personhood ballot efforts, and Dear is not in the group’s database, Enyart said.
Father Bill Carmody, director of Respect Life for the diocese of Colorado Springs, was outside the Planned Parenthood facility the morning of the shooting for a weekly mass and prayer vigil. Carmody holds mass outside the facility every Friday morning for between 15 and 20 people. Last week’s group was small, only five, and left about an hour before the shooting began.
Carmody said he has received several voicemails from people accusing him of having “blood on his hands” for what happened.
“I’ve purposely kept quiet,” Carmody said. “First and foremost, out of respect for the dead and their families. We need to be just mourning. … What words can make sense out of this? I can’t.”
Carmody said he has worked hard to “calm down the rhetoric” of local pro-life groups and wishes Planned Parenthood no harm: “It’s about their conversion, not their destruction.”
Carmody plans to wait until police give him the all clear to begin holding Friday morning mass again. For now, the facility is a crime scene and will need repairs before it can reopen.
“But I will go out again, this I promise you,” Carmody said.
Students for Life, a national pro-life organization that works with about 1,000 college and high school pro-life groups, has postponed its #WomenBetrayed national bus tour out of respect for the victims and their families, as well as for the safety of students and local volunteers. The tour, intended to raise awareness about Planned Parenthood’s sale of baby body parts, was scheduled to launch today from California and arrive in Ohio on Dec. 11.
Christina Hernandez, a spokesperson for Students for Life, said students from a partner group were at the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood early Friday morning but left because of the cold weather shortly before the shooter arrived.
One of Dear’s victims, police officer Garrett Swasey, was an elder at Hope Chapel, an evangelical congregation in Colorado Springs. He was married and had two children. On Monday, police released the names of the two civilian victims. Both had accompanied friends to the facility. Ke’arre Stewart, 29, was an Iraq war veteran and father of two girls, 11 and 5. “He was just a standup guy, he would take a bullet for you,” said Amburh Butler, a lifelong friend. Jennifer Markovsky, 36, also was a mother of two. Her father remembered her as kindhearted and lovable.
Kiley is a WORLD Digital assistant editor and reports on marriage, family, and sexuality.