Details Emerge About Planned Parenthood Shooter: Reclusive and Deranged
The man suspected of killing three people at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood clinic was a reclusive figure who was living in a remote trailer 60 miles from the city and “wouldn’t speak unless spoken to”.
Robert Lewis Dear, 57, is the top suspect in a shooting that left three people dead, including police officer Garrett Swasey, and injured nine others. Police said the gunman used a “long gun”, usually a reference to a rifle – potentially an assault weapon – or a shotgun.
The city of Colorado Springs confirmed his identity on Saturday morning and released a booking photo of the bearded 57-year-old, who is originally from North Carolina. He is suspected of opening fire at the women’s health clinic just before noon on Friday, the beginning of an hours-long standoff with police.
Colorado Springs police lieutenant Catherine Buckley said on Friday it was too early to determine the suspect’s motive.
“We don’t have any information on this individual’s mentality, or his ideas or ideology,” she said.
However, on Saturday news reports said Dear had reportedly said “no more baby parts” while he was being arrested, citing unnamed law enforcement sources.
Planned Parenthood has been at the centre of political controversy over videos released by an anti-abortion group which purport to show employees discussing the sale of fetal tissue. Planned Parenthood denies any wrongdoing by staff.
The Colorado Springs mayor John Suthers said investigators interviewed Dear and were trying to learn more about him.
James Russell, who lives down the mountain from Dear’s cabin in North Carolina, told the Associated Press that when Lewis spoke with him he would ramble, avoid eye contact and not make sense. Russell said he had not spoken to Lewis about issues such as abortion or religion.Pinterest
Dear’s North Carolina cabin is outside Asheville, though he is also said to have lived in a house in nearby Swannanoa. His neighbor said the cabin had no running water or electricity.
“If you talked to him, nothing with him was very cognitive – topics all over place,” said Russell.
Colorado’s Park County sheriff’s office said the shooting suspect also had a residence in Hartsel, Colorado. It was closed to public access on Saturday morning.
Dear lived in a trailer parked 50 yards off the highway, on land which he bought for $6000 in 2014. He shared the trailer with a woman who may have been his wife though she rarely left the property, according to Zigmond Post Jr, who lives about a quarter of a mile away.
Post told Reuters that he first met Dear when a pair of dogs escaped from his property and Dear locked them in his yard. Dear was friendly when Post arrived to retrieve the dogs but took the opportunity to complain about Barack Obama.
“We got the dogs back and everything and as we were getting ready to leave he handed us some anti-Obama pamphlets and told us to look over them,” Post said.
Post said he did not interact with Dear again until Wednesday, when the two men exchanged pleasantries at the post office.
“We all live out here because for some reason or another we like our solitude,” Post said. “He seemed like a guy who wouldn’t speak unless spoken to.”
According to public records, Dear has lived in North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia and has a record of brushes with the law. In South Carolina in January 2003, he was arrested on two counts of animal cruelty. He was found not guilty by Colleton county court.
In the same county in 2002, Dear faced a misdemeanor charge for “peeping tom, eavesdropping or peeping”. The charges were dismissed at a preliminary hearing.
Buckley said it took a few hours to establish communication with Dear on Saturday. But by 4pm, police were able to enter the clinic and convince him to surrender.
“We did get officers inside the building,” Buckley said. “They were able to shout to the suspect and make communication with him, and at that point they were able to get him to surrender and he was taken into custody.”
Neighbors who lived beside Dear’s former South Carolina home say he hid food in the woods as if he was a survivalist and said he lived off selling prints of his uncle’s paintings of Southern plantations and the Masters golf tournament.
John Hood said on Saturday that when he moved to Walterboro, Dear was living in a doublewide mobile home next door.
Hood said that Dear rarely talked to them, and when he did, he tended to offer unsolicited advice such as recommending that Hood put a metal roof on his house so the US government couldn’t spy on him.
“He was really strange and out there, but I never thought he would do any harm,” he said.