US shooter apparently targeted clinic that does abortions: Mayor

A member of the New York Police Department stands outside a Planned Parenthood clinic in the Manhattan borough of New York, on Nov 28, 2015.
A member of the New York Police Department stands outside a Planned Parenthood clinic in the Manhattan borough of New York, on Nov 28, 2015.PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (AFP) - The bearded drifter accused of being America's latest random killer apparently made a family planning clinic that does abortions his specific target, the mayor of the town rocked by the shooting said Sunday (Nov 29).

Details have begun to trickle out about what may have driven the suspect, Robert Lewis Dear, 57, to enter the Planned Parenthood clinic with a high-powered rifle on Friday and fire on police and civilians outside the building in Colorado Springs, Colorado killing three people.

The clinic performs abortions - a highly emotive and divisive practice in America.

NBC News, citing two law enforcement officials, reported Saturday that, when questioned after his arrest Dear mentioned "no more baby parts" in reference to Planned Parenthood.

Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers said Sunday on ABC's "This Week" talk show that police have yet to disclose what Dear told them under interrogation as to his motive.

 

But asked if he thought Planned Parenthood was targeted, Suthers said: "It certainly appears that way." He declined to comment on the alleged "baby parts" remark.

The president and chief executive of Planned Parenthood Rocky Mountains, Vicki Cowart, also said her organisation seems to have been targeted by Dear.

"It does appear that it does - it was targeted at us, from what we've heard," Cowart told the same ABC current affairs programme.

Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper said the shooting was a form of terrorism, and that America needed to debate toning down what he called inflammatory rhetoric on sensitive issues like abortion that cause people to run amok.

"I mean so many issues now, there are bloggers and, you know, talk shows where they really focus on trying to get people to that point of boiling over. Just intense anger," the governor told CNN.

He said his information was that the two civilians killed were a man and a woman.

Planned Parenthood - a major provider of women's health services that receives funding from the government - offers preventive checkups, contraceptives and abortions.

It has 700 clinics around the United States and has been violently targeted before.

Critics, many of whom seek to outlaw abortion in the United States, have falsely accused Planned Parenthood of selling fetal organs and body parts for profit, and encouraging women to have abortions in order to expand such operations.

Dear also mentioned President Barack Obama, according to NBC, with sources telling the broadcaster it was unclear whether he targeted the clinic because of abortions.

Reacting to the shooting, Obama Saturday made a call for tighter controls on military-style weapons.

"This is not normal. We can't let it become normal," a frustrated Obama said.

"If we truly care about this ... then we have to do something about the easy accessibility of weapons of war on our streets to people who have no business wielding them.

"Enough is enough." Police and officials said little about Dear, who appeared in police booking photos with a bushy gray beard.

But US media described him as a seemingly troubled loner who had had several previous but minor brushes with the law.

The Colorado Springs Gazette said he had arrest records in South and North Carolina on misdemeanor charges, and said he also faced peeping Tom charges in 2002 in South Carolina that were dismissed.

The wounded included five police officers, but none suffered serious injury.

Police said 24 people, who at one point were held hostage, were evacuated unharmed.

The dead policeman was identified as Garrett Swasey, 44, a campus officer at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.

He was also a former high level ice skater who used to be close friends with the iconic skater Nancy Kerrigan as they grew up and trained together.

"I am not surprised with the way he was living his life, as a police officer helping others," Kerrigan told the Boston Herald. "It makes total sense, he was always like that."