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Colo. Planned Parenthood shooting suspect mentioned ‘no more baby parts,’ official says

Police scour Robert Dear’s past for clues to clinic siege

A man held a placard in support of women’s rights during a church vigil Saturday in Colorado Springs to mark the deadly shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic.
A man held a placard in support of women’s rights during a church vigil Saturday in Colorado Springs to mark the deadly shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic.David Zalubowski/Associated Press

COLORADO SPRINGS — The man suspected of storming a Planned Parenthood clinic and killing a police officer and two others used the phrase ‘‘no more baby parts’’ to explain his act, according to a law enforcement official, a comment likely to fuel the heated rhetoric surrounding abortion.

Robert Lewis Dear’s attack on the clinic was ‘‘definitely politically motivated,’’ said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity because the investigation is still underway. NBC News, which first reported the comment, said Dear also mentioned President Obama in a range of statements to investigators that left his precise motivation unclear.

Dear allegedly killed three people and wounded nine Friday before surrendering to police. The victims included Garrett Swasey, 44, a University of Colorado police officer who was born in Massachusetts.

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Even as authorities released few details about the shootings, the politics of the abortion issue seemed to outstrip their efforts to be methodical.

While antiabortion activists denied any knowledge of Dear and said he is not affiliated with their movement, abortion rights activists countered that comments by conservatives against Planned Parenthood had precipitated the violence.

Vicki Cowart, president of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, cited ‘‘eyewitness accounts’’ in asserting that Dear ‘‘was motivated by opposition to safe and legal abortion.’’

‘‘We’ve seen an alarming increase in hateful rhetoric and smear campaigns against abortion providers and patients over the last few months,’’ she said.

Planned Parenthood, which provides abortions and other health care services, has been at the center of a political storm as the 2016 presidential campaign heats up.

Republican candidates have denounced the organization, especially after an antiabortion group released a series of surreptitiously filmed videos in which Planned Parenthood officials discussed the techniques and financial aspects of harvesting fetal-tissue samples for scientific research.

The two civilians who died in the Friday attack have yet to be named. At least four other officers and five more civilians were injured. Officials said Saturday that the injured victims are expected to recover.

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Swasey was memorialized Saturday at a vigil in Colorado Springs. At All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church, people wiped away tears as speakers spoke about a community torn by two mass shootings in the space of weeks. They also applauded calls for gun control and solidarity with Planned Parenthood.

“We would not be here but for the obscene access to assault weapons,” the Rev. Nori Rost, the minister of the church, told the crowd.

Robert L. Dear Jr., in an undated police photo.
Robert L. Dear Jr., in an undated police photo.Associated Press

Dear, 57, who moved to Colorado last year, is being held without bond and is scheduled to appear in court Monday. He is expected to first face state charges and then additional federal charges.

Dear was described by people who know him as a malcontent and drifter who has had numerous run-ins with the law.

In North and South Carolina, law enforcement records and interviews revealed that Dear was involved in a series of disputes and occasionally violent acts toward neighbors and women he knew, the Associated Press reported.

Among them was Pam Dear, a woman believed to have been his wife at the time.

Authorities said Dear was armed with what they described as a long gun and had also brought into the clinic several unspecified items that could have been explosives.

Obama, in his first reaction to the shootings, called again for more gun-control measures.

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‘‘This is not normal. We can’t let it become normal,’’ the president said. ‘‘If we truly care about this . . . then we have to do something about the easy accessibility of weapons of war on our streets to people who have no business wielding them.’’

On the Republican campaign trail, candidates who have been full-throated in their denunciations of Planned Parenthood for much of the year fell nearly silent. Only Texas Senator Ted Cruz and Ohio Governor John Kasich referred to the shootings, but not Planned Parenthood.