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News Violence

Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood Shooter Indicted by Justice Department

Jessica Mason Pieklo

Robert Lewis Dear Jr. could face the death penalty for his November 2015 attack on a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood that killed three people.

The U.S. Department of Justice announced on Monday it was indicting Robert Lewis Dear Jr. on 68 counts related to his November 2015 siege on a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood that left three dead and injured eight others.

Dear could face the death penalty or life in prison if convicted. 

Dear, who has been declared incompetent to stand trial by a Colorado state court since May 2016, also faces 179 counts in state court related to the deadly attack on the reproductive health-care center. 

On November 27, 2015, Dear arrived heavily armed at the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood with the intention to wage “war” because the clinic offered abortion services, according to the indictment. Dear had brought with him four semi-automatic rifles, five handguns, two other rifles, a shotgun, more than 500 rounds of ammunition, and propane tanks to use as bombs. Dear wore a a homemade bullet-proof vest.

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Dear struck the clinic parking lot first by shooting at people parked next to his truck, killing one and injuring two others. He then forced his way into the clinic by shooting through a side door. Once in the building, Dear engaged in a nearly five-hour standoff with law enforcement, during which he repeatedly shot at officers, eventually killing one and injuring four others. 

When arrested, Dear was reportedly yelling “no more baby parts,” referring to the discredited smear campaign orchestrated by David Daleiden and the Center for Medical Progress (CMP). Daleiden and CMP were recently ordered by a federal judge to pay Planned Parenthood more than $2 million dollars in damages related to the release of heavily edited videos they allege show the health-care provider illegally selling fetal tissue for profit. 

Dear, who called himself “a warrior for the babies” at an early court appearance, had initially cooperated with Colorado law enforcement officers and indicated he wanted to argue that his siege was “justified” to prevent the “greater evil” of abortion. Those efforts stalled when Dear was appointed an attorney who proceeded with an insanity defense. A Colorado judge agreed with Dear’s defense team, initially ruling Dear incompetent to stand trial in May 2016. Dear has faced repeated evaluations, with each evaluation concluding he lacks the legal competency necessary to stand trial.

Dear faces 65 counts of violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (the FACE Act) and three counts of using a firearm during a violent crime resulting in murder. If convicted, Dear faces a maximum penalty of death or life in prison. According to a press release announcing Dear’s indictment, the U.S. Department of Justice has not yet decided whether to seek the death penalty. Dear’s first appearance in the federal indictment is Monday afternoon.

“Anti-abortion extremist violence like the horrific attack carried out by Robert Lewis Dear, Jr. in Colorado Springs  has a devastating impact on access to abortion care,” said Katherine Spillar, executive director of the Feminist Majority Foundation who has overseen the organization’s work with abortion providers to counter anti-choice violence. 

Spillar told Rewire.News that the Feminist Majority Foundation filed an amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court in June Medical Services v. Gee “detailing the real world impact of anti-abortion extremist violence, threats and harassment on abortion providers and hospital admitting privileges, especially in Louisiana.” At the center of the Supreme Court case is a law that requires abortion providers to maintain hospital admitting privileges—a potentially devastating blow to abortion access across the country. 

“If the admitting privileges law is upheld, women in Louisiana could be left without a single abortion provider; due to the fear of anti-abortion violence and harassment, hospitals can and do deny hospital admitting privileges to abortion providers,” Spillar said. “This is not an abstract concept. I have seen firsthand how anti-abortion extremists isolate and stalk doctors and clinic staff, plaster their faces, names and home addresses on WANTED posters, publish ‘justifiable homicide’ lists—all with the goal of creating a climate of terror. And these same extremists have targeted hospitals, with the result being the denial or revocation of admitting privileges for abortion providers.”

Dear’s next appearance to reevaluate his competency to stand trial for the Colorado charges is scheduled for January. 

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