COLORADO SPRINGS, CO — Robert Lewis Dear, accused of killing three people last month at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, Colorado, made a series of outbursts at a hearing Wednesday, saying, “I am a warrior for the babies.”
At one point, a bailiff placed a hand on Dear’s shoulder in an apparent attempt to quiet him.
On a day on which prosecutors filed 179 felony charges against him, Dear made his first public comments in the case — in 17 outbursts during the proceedings.
“You’ll never know what I saw in that clinic,” Dear said. “Atrocities, that’s what they want to seal.”
He said Planned Parenthood kills babies. When lawyers spoke about a listing of those wounded in the incident, Dear blurted out, “Could you add the babies that were to be aborted that day? Can you add that to the list?”
Dear made reference to his public defender Daniel King who also represented Colorado theater shooter James Holmes: “Do you know who this lawyer is? He is the lawyer for the Batman shooter, when they drugged him all up and that’s what they want to do to me.”
After the tumultuous hearing, District Attorney Dan May said the litany of charges against Dear, 57, included eight options of first-degree murder, depending on the circumstances, and 131 counts of attempted first-degree murder.
A preliminary hearing and arraignment are yet to be scheduled. May said a decision on whether to seek the death penalty would come within about two months after the arraignment.
Dear is accused of killing a police officer and two civilians in a shooting rampage on November 27. The closely watched case has already united even staunch opponents in the abortion debate.
Dear mentioned “baby parts” after the shooting and expressed anti-abortion and anti-government views, a law enforcement official briefed on the investigation said.
Investigators have not publicly disclosed a motive, but the mayor of Colorado Springs, John Suthers, said it can be inferred by the location of the attack.
U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch called it a “crime against women receiving health care services.” Vicki Cowart, president of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, was clear that she believes the shooter “was motivated by opposition to safe and legal abortion.”
Nine people were wounded in the rampage, which brought common ground between Planned Parenthood’s leadership and conservative presidential candidate Mike Huckabee: Both called it an act of terrorism.
“I think there’s a lot of belief that this qualifies as a form of domestic terrorism,” Dawn Laguens, Planned Parenthood’s chief experience officer, said.
Huckabee echoed that sentiment.
“What he did is domestic terrorism, and what he did is absolutely abominable — especially to us in the pro-life movement, because there’s nothing about any of us that would condone or in any way look the other way on something like this,” Huckabee said.
Official: Suspect had duffel bag with handguns, rifles
Dear surrendered after a nearly six-hour standoff.
At this point, investigators believe Dear acted alone, and they’re working to interview witnesses and anyone he may have spoken with before the attack, the official said. So far, they haven’t pinpointed why the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood location was targeted or a clear motive, the official said.
They’re also reviewing evidence found in and around the facility, the official said, including handguns and rifles Dear allegedly brought to the scene in a duffel bag and propane tanks investigators believe he planned to use as part of his attack.
The Planned Parenthood facility in Colorado Springs had protective windows, along with a safe room and closed circuit television surveillance video, common security practices adopted by the organization at facilities in recent years, another law enforcement official said.
Before the attack, a private security guard posted at the facility had left when his shift ended. Another security guard was scheduled to come in later that day, a Planned Parenthood official said.
“The staff at this health center were trained in security measures, and they acted swiftly and in accordance with their training,” Vicki Cowart, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, said in a statement. “They worked closely with law enforcement to prevent this tragedy from being far worse than it was.”
A hermit’s shanty
Dear apparently lived in solitude in the Carolinas, then more recently in Colorado. He’s believed to have moved from North Carolina to Colorado about a year ago, living in an RV on a vacant piece of land.
Over a decade ago, he had some run-ins with the law while living in South Carolina but was never convicted.
In 1997, Dear’s wife accused him of domestic assault, although no charges were pressed, according to records from the Colleton County Sheriff’s Office in South Carolina.
In 2002, Dear was charged with being a peeping Tom; those counts were dismissed.
In 2003, he was arrested and charged with two counts of animal cruelty, but he was found not guilty at a bench trial.
He later made his home in a hermit shanty in the mountains of North Carolina, CNN affiliate WLOS reported. It published a photo of a small, basic cabin in the woods of Buncombe County.
The Sheriff’s Office there knew Dear from a single civil citation issued in 2014 for allowing his dogs to run wild.
Planned Parenthood videos
Planned Parenthood has recently faced intense political and social opposition.
Eight undercover videos released over the summer by anti-abortion activists have stirred caustic criticism against the reproductive health services provider. The controversy has reached the halls of Congress, where conservative politicians have demanded the group’s defunding.
Planned Parenthood has said the videos, which alleged illegal fetal organ sales, were heavily edited and inaccurate.
At least three of the organization’s buildings have been vandalized since September, not long after the last video appeared.
The violence and vandalism are troubling signs that the language political leaders use could have dangerous repercussions, Planned Parenthood CEO Cecile Richards told CNN’s “AC360” on Monday.
“It is really disturbing to see the kind of hateful rhetoric about Planned Parenthood, about the women who come to us, about the doctors who provide health care,” she said. “It’s very hard to see these kinds of violent incidents that I think sometimes this rhetoric fuels.”