Gunman Storms Colorado Planned Parenthood - Kills 3, Injures 9

Human Rights

The gunman who opened fire near a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood facility Friday has surrended to police after a gun battle that left three dead, including one police officer.

The slain officer, Garrett Swasey, 44, worked for the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs. When the shooting broke out, Swasey, a six-year veteran of the university's police force who was on campus about 10 miles away, went to the scene "in support of an officer under fire," the school's chancellor said in a statement.

Nine others were taken to local hospitals with injuries, including five law enforcement officers. All are reported to be in good condition.

The shooter has been identified as Robert Lewis Dear, 59, a law enforcement official told CNN. The official provided no further details.

Dear, who was described as wearing a hunter's cap and a trench coat and armed with an AK-47-style weapon, barricaded himself inside the Planned Parenthood center and began shooting at civilians and officers who responded to reports of gunshots at around 11:38 am local time.

“The perpetrator is in custody,” Mayor John Suthers declared a little after 5pm local time. "The situation has been resolved. There's no continuing peril to the citizens of Colorado Springs," he told reporters. "But there's a huge crime scene that has to be processed."

According to reports that are still emerging, Dear may have had even bigger plans for destruction: He had brought some other objects to the Planned Parenthood center that may have included propane tanks. Dear's motives and connection to Planned Parenthood remain unclear.

Because of incidents like these, women's healthcare clinics have been forced to become more security conscious. The Colorado Springs facility reportedly moved to its current location, which is surrounded by private buildings, to protect clients from harassment by anti-choice activists. It also has a security room with bulletproof vests for staff. Some staff escaped harm by following security protocol and hiding in specially designed “safe areas” at the building, reports said.

Vicki Cowart, CEO and president of the local branch of the organization, Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, issued the following statement

Our top priority is the safety of our patients and staff. Our hearts go out to everyone involved in this tragic situation. Planned Parenthood has strong security measures in place, works closely with law enforcement agencies, and has a very strong safety record. We don't yet know the full circumstances and motives behind this criminal action, and we don't yet know if Planned Parenthood was in fact the target of this attack. We share the concerns of many Americans that extremists are creating a poisonous environment that feeds domestic terrorism in this country. We will never back away from providing care in a safe, supportive environment that millions of people rely on and trust.

“The Planned Parenthood family grieves for Officer Garrett Swasey's family, friends and colleagues dealing with heartbreaking loss tonight,” Planned Parenthood CEO Cecile Richards tweeted. In a statement released late Friday, Richards said, "Our hearts go out to the families and loved ones of the brave law enforcement officers who put themselves in harm's way in Colorado Springs.” 

"The [injured] officers, they're obviously in some pain, but thankfully they're alive and talking to us, and they're heroes ... The courage they displayed today saved many, many lives, no doubt," said Fire Chief Christopher Riley.

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