Unanswered questions persist in shooting at Planned Parenthood
by Lynde Langdon & Sarah Padbury
Posted 11/28/15, 09:00 pm
UPDATE: While police have not released an official motive in a shooting spree at a Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs, Colo., on Friday, Mayor John Suthers said the public can “make inferences from where it took place.”
Little is known about the suspect, 57-year-old Robert Dear, but police Saturday searched a trailer in the small town of Hartsel, Colo., where local residents said Dear lived. News reports described Dear as having lived “off the grid” in both Hartsel and earlier in Black Mountain, N.C., where he stayed in a cabin without running water or electricity.
The Rev. Bill Carmody, a Catholic priest who leads a weekly mass in front of the Planned Parenthood, said he did not recognize Dear as having attended any of his services. Authorities said they would likely release the names Monday of two other people who were killed in the attack.
OUR EARLIER REPORT (12:25 p.m.): As police investigate the motive of the shooter at a Colorado Springs, Colo., Planned Parenthood facility Friday, they are crediting the bravery of local officers for ending the standoff before it became much worse.
After a five-hour confrontation with police that left three people dead and nine wounded, the lone shooter suddenly gave himself up and was taken into police custody.
Officials identified the suspect as Robert Dear, 57, who is being held without bond.
Garrett Swasey, a University of Colorado Colorado Springs police officer, was one of three people slain. Swasey, 44, was one of the first officers to arrive at the scene because the facility is only a few miles from the college campus. The married father of two was a six-year veteran officer and a former champion ice dancer. He was also an elder at Hope Chapel, serving on the worship team and overseeing its Care Groups, the Colorado Springs Gazette reported. A YouCaring fund set up to help with his children’s future educational needs surpassed its goal within hours, raising almost $18,000 by midday.
“The entire University of Colorado community mourns the tragic loss of Officer Garrett Swasey of our Colorado Springs campus, who lost his life today in the line of duty,” university President Bruce Benson said in a statement. “Our thoughts and prayers are with Rachel and their children and family. … Our communities are poorer for his loss.”
The names of the two civilians killed have not been released. Police reported Friday night the nine wounded, including five police officers, were transferred to area hospitals and were in good condition.
The first 911 calls just before noon on Friday reported a middle-age man shooting with a long gun in the parking lot outside the building that houses Planned Parenthood, according to The Denver Post. He then entered the building and began shooting from the windows at propane tanks placed around the facility. No explosions occurred.
Colorado Springs police, as well as agents with the FBI and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, spent the next several hours exchanging gunfire with the suspect while rescuing people trapped inside the building. In all, about 115 Colorado Springs police officers participated, Lt. Catherine Buckley said at a news conference.
Police dispatchers relayed information to officers at the scene from victims hiding in the building. As the afternoon progressed, the SWAT team’s armored vehicle became riddled with bullet holes as it raced back and forth, transferring victims to ambulances or police cars, The Denver Post reported. Other officers put the neighborhood strip mall, anchored by a large King Soopers grocery story, into lockdown.
Despite the ongoing gunfire and several officers down, police made their way into the facility, watching the suspect’s moves via surveillance cameras. Once he was cornered in a room, police shouted to the suspect to give up, and he did.
Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers said the loss of life could have been much higher had it not been for the “brave responding officers.”
“All I can say,” Police Chief Peter Carey said Friday night, “is my heart is broken.”
Sarah is a writer, editor, and adoption advocate. She is a graduate of the WORLD Journalism Institute's mid-career course. Sarah and her husband live with their six teenagers in Castle Rock, Colo.