COLORADO SPRINGS (Colorado)• • Police yesterday questioned a man arrested for allegedly killing three people and wounding nine others when he entered a family planning clinic in Colorado with a rifle and reportedly opened fire.
They identified him as Robert Lewis Dear, 57, of South Carolina.
Armed with what police described as a "long weapon", Dear entered the Planned Parenthood clinic - which carries out abortion and other services for women - last Friday, at around noon.
Several people were inside the facility at the time of the shooting, on what had been a regular work day.
Terrified people fled the building amid a steady snowfall, some crying and pleading for help. More than 100 officers gathered at the scene to secure the area.
After an exchange of gunfire and a stand-off lasting more than five hours, the gunman surrendered.
Police spokesman Catherine Buckley told reporters that officers were able to enter the building and convince Dear to give himself up.
Mayor John Suthers paid tribute to the police for hauling in the gunman without further bloodshed. A police officer and two civilians were killed, while nine others - among them five officers - were wounded, though none seriously.
"While this was a terrible, terrible tragedy, it could have been much worse if not for the reactions of first responders," he said.
The dead policeman was identified as Mr Garrett Swasey, 44, a campus officer at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, who had raced to the scene of the shooting.
Police initially feared that Dear might have brought explosives, and officers carefully combed the crime scene after he surrendered.
Local media said extra police were also sent to protect the three other Planned Parenthood clinics in the Denver area.
The authorities are trying to determine the gunman's motive and whether he had any connection to Planned Parenthood, a non-profit organisation in the United States that has become a lightning rod for criticism by social conservatives.
Those critics, many of whom seek to outlaw abortion in the country, 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.
Ms Vicki Cowart, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Rocky Mountains, said she did not believe the centre had been specifically targeted. But she suggested that a climate of rancour surrounding abortion in the US is setting the stage for such violence.
She told CNN separately that some of the clinic's staff escaped the gunman by following security protocol and hunkering down in "safe rooms" built into the facility.
The Colorado Springs clinic has been the target of repeated protests by anti-abortion activists, and in recent years moved to new quarters derided as a "fortress" by critics.
This is the second mass shooting in Colorado Springs in less than a month. On Oct 31, a gunman killed three people in a residential neighbourhood before dying in a shoot- out with police.
President Barack Obama yesterday denounced America's epidemic of gun violence, saying: "We have to do something about the easy accessibility of weapons of war on our streets to people who have no business wielding them. Period. Enough is enough."
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, BLOOMBERG