Harlan Drake, Man Who Killed Two in Michigan Murders, Attempts Suicide

Jodi Jacobson

Harlan Drake, the man who killed anti-choice advocate James Pouillon and gravel pit owner Mike Fuoss in Owosso, Michigan this week attempted suicide while in jail awaiting arraignment, reports the Detroit Free Press.

Harlan Drake, the man who killed anti-choice advocate James Pouillon and gravel pit owner Mike Fuoss in Owosso, Michigan this week attempted suicide while in jail awaiting arraignment, reports the Detroit Free Press.

According to the Free Press, Drake "was hospitalized Saturday morning after an apparent
suicide attempt."

 

The story goes on to say:

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Drake
was arraigned Friday afternoon on two charges of first-degree murder in
the Friday morning shooting deaths of anti-abortion activist James
Pouillon, 63, and gravel pit owner Mike Fuoss, 61, both of Owosso
Township.

 

Drake
also was charged with carrying a dangerous weapon with unlawful intent
after police say he intended Friday to target a third victim — James
Howe, an Owosso real estate agent. Police said they arrested Drake at
his home before he could fulfill those plans.

Contacted
at home, Shiawassee County Sheriff George Braidwood would not provide
information about Drake’s self-inflicted wound or suicide watch
protocols at the jail.

Colbry said Drake still does not have attorney representation.

Full story at the DFP site.

NYT Misleads on Pouillon Murder and Clinic Violence

Laura MacCleery

The New York Times’ coverage of Pouillon's murder obfuscates police reports that abortion was not a central factor, romanticizes anti-choice protesters, and ignores the history of anti-choice violence.

There’s
nothing new about the so-called liberal media bending over backwards to prove
its impartiality — often at the expense of responsible reporting — but it doesn’t
make it any less frustrating.  This
past Saturday, I woke up to the latest offense in The New York Times’ coverage of last month’s shooting death of an
anti-abortion protester in Michigan.  While the murder of Owosso resident James Pouillon is
undoubtedly tragic, coverage in The Times has repeatedly cast this
random and senseless incident misleadingly, portraying it, without evidence, as
part of a larger abortion battle.

 

On
the one hand, the Times’ coverage
obfuscated police reports that abortion did not play a central role in the
killing (one of two by the same alleged shooter on the same day).  On the other, the articles unduly
romanticized the actions of anti-choice protesters, while completely ignoring the
long history of violence,
intimidation and harassment
perpetrated against abortion providers.  As Randall Terry, founder and former
leader of Operation Rescue, admitted to The
Washington Post
recently, the goal of anti-choice forces has been to “torment[]”
providers, including medical residents, to reduce access for women to safe
choices
.

Last weekend’s article “Abortion Foes Tell of Their Journey to the Streets”
is probably the worst offender, declaring (in the lede) that Mr. Pouillon’s
murder is proof that anti-choice protesters are under the same threat of
violence as abortion providers. Really? Let’s just do the reporter’s job by
looking, first and foremost, at the facts. Mr. Pouillon’s death is believed to
be the first of a person protesting abortion. Meanwhile, anti-abortion violence,
including clinic bombings, kidnappings, arson, and shootings, has spanned the
last three decades.  The National Abortion Federation documents more than 6100
violent acts in the U.S. and Canada since 1977

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What’s
more, the perpetrators of this violence are quite frequently well-connected to
prominent anti-choice organizations and readily acknowledge their anti-abortion
motivations. James Kopp, the convicted murderer of New York’s Dr. Barnett
Slepian for example, was a well-known militant in the notorious anti-abortion
terrorist organization, The Lambs of Christ. Paul Hill, who admitted killing
Florida’s Dr. John Britton and his bodyguard, expressed no remorse after the
shootings and told CBS
News’ Connie Chung in 1994
that, “I know for a fact that I’m going to go to
heaven when I die. I am certainly guilty of no crimes… My actions are
honorable.”

In
contrast, in the Pouillon case, the reported facts strongly indicate that the shooting
was part of a random killing spree stemming from individual grudges – none of
which were brought on by pro-choice sentiment. As authorities have reported, the
suspect Harlan Drake shot a second victim, Mike Fuoss, an owner of a gravel
pit, and planned to shoot a third, James Howe, who was a local Owosso realtor
.
Shiawassee County Sheriff’s Detective Lt. David Kirk told The Detroit News
that there are no clear ties between the victims, but that Drake had
separate interactions with each of his targets
and that, “It didn’t appear
to be a case where Pouillon was pro-life and Drake was pro-choice."

Then
there’s The Times’ unsubstantiated
claims.  Two more articles
published in The Times (“Abortion Protester Is Killed in Michigan
(Sept. 12); and “Memorial Held for Slain Anti-Abortion Protester”
(Sept.17)) drew deeply spurious connections between Mr. Pouillon’s murder and
that of Kansas abortion provider Dr. George Tiller.  Again, mere reference to the facts shows otherwise.  Scott
Roeder, the suspect in Dr. Tiller’s murder, was a well-known
anti-abortion activist, openly connected with Operation Rescue
, a prominent
anti-abortion organization, and has been linked to
vandalism at another Kansas clinic
. Mr. Roeder also had a noted violent
record, including
a 1996 conviction for criminal use of explosives
. Mr. Drake, on the other
hand, has no connections with the pro-choice movement and there have been no
reports of a history of harassing members of the anti-choice movement.

Dr. Tiller was the eighth person murdered in
attacks on abortion providers, while again, Mr.
Pouillon’s shooting is believed to be the first of its kind
(reported by The New York Times, incidentally). In
addition, Dr. Tiller was the target of anti-abortion activists for years, actions
which included an
assassination attempt in which he was shot five times
, and his
clinic being vandalized
.

 

In
contrast, Mr. Pouillon has no known history of being harassed nor has even been
mentioned by name by any pro-choice organization. He also has a long list of
run-ins with the law, according to The Detroit Free Press,
including a conviction of stalking a woman he who worked at an Owosso car
dealership
. As a more responsible paper, the Free Press, reports, Mr. Pouillon regularly protested at the auto
dealership for its support of a pro-choice candidate and apparently targeted
this female employee mistakenly believing, she says, that she had some
connection to this pro-choice activity.

 

In
the first comprehensive investigation of the battles waged against abortion
providers, the Center for Reproductive Rights this year found that aggressive
harassment as well as discriminatory legal restrictions and serious stigma are
reducing the number of abortion providers
.  Doctors and clinic staff operate under appalling
circumstances, including death threats, dead animals left at their front door,
break-ins at their homes, and being physically assaulted by protesters. They
live in fear of violence.

Among
other precautions, they carry bullet-proof vests, purchase elaborate security
systems for their homes and offices, and change their daily routes to work. As
one executive director of a Pennsylvania clinic who is regularly picketed by a
protester at her home told us, “Every day, I work in a culture of terror. Every
day, I worry about being shot or targeted, especially
now that Dr. Tiller was murdered. That has increased a hundred fold. I have not
felt more vulnerable. I’ve never felt this vulnerable in my job.” A moving
video in which she talks about the difficulty of living with this fear and
intimidation is here.

Overall,
The Times’ recent coverage has been profoundly
misleading, irresponsibly suggesting that Mr. Pouillon’s murder is an
escalation in violence over abortion.On top of
the recent tragedy, it has added an utterly avoidable injury – by equating a
random shooting with a sustained and intentional campaign of intimidation,
harassment and violence by anti-choice forces, it disregards the dangerous and
sometimes, deadly environment in which abortion providers operate daily.  What journalists must remember is that
a trumped-up “balance” in their reporting can actually cover up the truth,
distort the meaning of violent acts like this one, and do far more harm than
good.  

 

How to Stop the Abortion War Killings

Mary Krane Derr

Pro-lifers and pro-choicers in the U.S. are bickering over whose side has the most martyrs and whose has the most blood on its hands. Yet, there are ways both sides can respond together to help stop the abortion war killings.

On May 31, 2009, abortion provider Dr. George Tiller was shot in cold blood inside his Wichita, Kansas church.  The suspect, Scott Roeder, reportedly cites his antiabortion views as a motive. On September 11, 2009, Jim Pouillon was shot in cold blood in front of Owosso, Michigan High School while engaged in an antiabortion protest. The suspect, Harlan Drake, reportedly stated an objection to Pouillon’s use of aborted fetus photos in his protests outside the school.

Drake also allegedly killed Mike Fuoss, a gravel pit owner, who upset Drake for undisclosed reasons.  Last week, Tonya Johnson, an Arlington, Tennessee schoolteacher in her eighth month of pregnancy, was shot to death with her baby.  The suspect is her boyfriend, Terence Nelson, who reportedly was enraged at her refusal to have an abortion.

Pro-lifers and pro-choicers in the U.S. are bickering over whose side has the most martyrs and whose has the most blood on its hands.  This is disrespectful towards the dead. It is also unfortunate and unnecessary and could even set the stage for further homicides. Unfortunately we cannot join together in raising the dead. Yet there are many other and better responses that both "sides" can together have to abortion war killings.

We can listen more respectfully and profoundly to one another and our self-definitions. In response to Pouillon’s murder, or that of Tonya Johnson, many pro-choicers feel a deep, visceral sense that this action is dissonant with their movement and their values.  This is exactly how peaceful abortion opponents —the vast majority— feel about the killings of abortion providers.  No one wants to be blamed for or associated with actions they deem antithetical to their most cherished values.
And if neither “side” is about killing those who disagree, what, then, are pro-lifers and pro-choicers each about, as they themselves see it? 

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Pro-lifers say they are about respecting life, which can and often does encompass respect for women’s right to make non-abortion choices. Pro-choicers say they are about fostering sexual/reproductive choice, which to their view is crucial to respect for life, especially women’s lives.
In other words: there is a lot of overlap possible here.  If we approach one another not only without weaponry, but with active, outspoken disavowal of weaponry, we are all the more readily to discover and build upon those areas of overlap.

We can– and must!–cooperate in the prevention of further homicides. Living as I do in an urban neighborhood with
rampant gun violence, I cannot help but relate all the abortion war killings over the decades to the larger picture of gun violence in the U.S., to the thousands of deaths and injuries annually. Bringing up gun control in the context of abortion may have the sound of pouring gasoline onto an already raging fire. I do acknowledge that this is
tricky. There are many pro-choice liberals who support gun control and pro-life conservatives who oppose it. There are also pro-choicers who invoke gun rights out of respect for personal choice, and pro-lifers like me who support gun control out of respect for life. 

But no matter how tricky it may be, if we all agree that killing one another is not the way to address our disagreements, we must therefore assume the responsibility to prevent further killings.  Even if we are not personally
responsible for the homicides themselves in any way! That means personally committing to alleviate the reality of gun violence, or, as some would have it, the reality of people who abuse their Second Amendment freedoms.

Now, I passionately advocate gun control and my vision of reverence for life goes beyond humans, born and unborn, to eco advocacy, vegetarianism, and a general opposition to hunting and fishing.  But no doubt, along with
like-minded pro-lifers, and pro-choice gun control advocates,  there are also avid hunters, fishers, and gun bearers, both pro-life and pro-choice, who ask the same question as I do: How did people like suspects Scott Roeder, Harlan Drake, and Terence Nelson get their hands on guns? How is it that their plans for violence were not thwarted in time?

Even those of us who are sickened beyond measure at even the thought of wounding or killing must deal with such questions.

We can find reciprocally acceptable ways to disagree with one another. Not killing one another is the most basic
and necessary form of nonviolence between pro-choice and pro-life. But the practice of nonviolence towards one another hardly stops there. Nonviolence needs also to be present in our speech towards one another. Without treading on one another’s freedoms of speech and association, pro-lifers
and pro-choicers need to work out a better understanding of how to express our disagreements. 

How to begin or continue in that process? 
Pro-lifers and pro-choicers alike have had quite parallel reactions to Jim Pouillon’s killing: a combination of horror over his murder and profound objection to his particular
means of protesting abortion. No doubt to the immense relief of pro-choicers, I am one of many pro-lifers who object to the indiscriminate brandishing of giant, bloody fetus photos in the public space. Yes, disturbing images are
a valid part of many political causes, including the peace movement, and eco advocacy/animal rights. Pro-choicers themselves sometimes resort to coat hanger imagery to convey the urgency of their cause. 

I am not advocating legal censorship by any means, but I personally think it is better, in general, for activists to offer people a choice about whether, when, and where to view such images.  Fear and disgust are not the only or even the most positive ways to appeal to people’s hearts and minds anyway, especially in a culture that is so deeply polarized and already saturated to
the point of desensitization with graphic images.

Even as I am sickened by Pouillon’s murder, even as I oppose abortion, and even as I understand the desperation and despair of some protestors who feel that no one really cares enough about a matter of life and death…I would recommend something different for people who wish to protest abortion in any sign-holding kind of way—by no means the only way to take real action. They can stand quietly under placards that non-judgmentally offer substantive help with preventing and going through with difficult pregnancies. 
And they must be fully prepared to give such help at every level from the individual to the global—whether they pass
out condoms;  offer to personally pay a woman’s back rent or offer her an open adoption of her child;  give referrals to sound programs, including ethically run pro-life pregnancy
centers, that aid with basic needs like food, clothing, shelter, and health care; gather signatures in support of prenatal care coverage, birth mother’s rights, or UNFPA funding; and/or do something else. I know many pro-lifers who commit such deeds constantly, but behind the scenes. Pro-choicers who truly believe in choice also are deeply engaged in creating and offering the other choices.

Since the shooting, Pouillon’s son James M. Puillon has come forward and stated that the murdered protestor was not motivated by concern for the unborn, but by hostility and violence towards women, including his late ex-wife. If this characterization is indeed true, it raises another, connected issue around bringing anti-abortion beliefs into the public sphere.

Pro-life and pro-choice do have valid disagreements over the exact parameters of universal human rights in regard to abortion. But even as we apply a universal human rights approach differently, we can agree that hatred of women has no place on either; whether the misogyny hides behind an allegedly pro-life but woman-blaming “concern” for unborn children, or whether it hypocritically seeks to clothe male coercion and violence in the rhetoric of pro-choice.

When we agree on the importance of women’s rights, we can cooperate on alleviating such unfortunately widespread problems as the heightened rate of domestic violence during pregnancy. We can and must ensure that no more pregnant
women and their babies suffer injury and even death, whether the perpetrators have the motive of coerced abortion or another motive. 

We can and must draw on wisdom such as that gathered by the kNOw MORE campaign of the Family Violence Prevention Fund, which documents the links among domestic violence and reproductive health dilemmas like unintended pregnancy, abortion, and unsupported motherhood.
The rights and well-being of women from a universal human rights perspective, open to people of all faiths and none, must be central to abortion discourse, or we will go nowhere. 

We may not agree precisely about the nature and status of prenatal lives, or about the roles of abortion in female lives and welfare, but we are disagreeing within a shared and humane framework that highlights commonalities. As a pro-lifer, I am also well aware that if one wishes to help the unborn, then one must attend abundantly and simultaneously to the needs of the already born too, especially women. Pitting the unborn against the born, as if
prenatal lives just simply floated around in the air somewhere and then mattered no more after their purportedly invisible, inert mothers birthed them…that does not help a soul.

A universal human rights approach also brings something else quite valuable to common ground. Throughout almost all the world–most thankfully, in my personal, abolitionist view—this framework rejects the death penalty as a solution to societal problems and conflicts, whether it is administered by vigilantes or through legal due process.

I
cannot claim to have all the answers.  But I do know that if pro-lifers and pro-choicers get further and further caught up in ad hominem arguments over who is more bloodthirsty, we will harden even further against one another. Meaning that violence becomes more likely to happen again in the name of the abortion war, even if we fervently hope that it does not.

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