Suspect Robert Dear interrupts hearing
He could face the death penalty
Planned Parenthood CEO says "hateful rhetoric" fuels violent incidents
Robert Lewis Dear, accused of killing three people last month at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, Colorado, made a series of outbursts at a hearing Wednesday, saying, “I am a warrior for the babies.”
On a day on which prosecutors filed 179 felony charges against him, Dear, wearing an aqua jumpsuit and leg irons, made his thoughts known – through nearly 20 interjections during the proceeding.
“You’ll never know what I saw in that clinic,” Dear interrupted during one argument in the motions hearing. “The atrocities. That’s what they want to seal. The babies.”
At other times, he said, “I am guilty. There is no trial,” and “Protect the babies.”
A bailiff sitting nearby several times placed a hand on Dear’s shoulder in an apparent attempt to quell the disruptions.
When lawyers spoke about a listing of victims in the incident, Dear, his facial expression framed by a shock of hair, blurted out, “Could you add the babies that were supposed to be aborted that day? Could you add that to the list?”
Dear made reference to his public defender, Daniel King, who also represented Colorado theater shooter James Holmes: “Do you know who this lawyer is? He is the lawyer for the Batman shooter – when they drugged him all up and that’s what they want to do to me.”
While King told the court there were questions about his client’s competence, Dear said, “You are not my lawyer.”
After the tumultuous hearing, District Attorney Dan May said the litany of charges against Dear, 57, included eight options of first-degree murder, depending on the circumstances, and 131 counts of attempted first-degree murder. Nine people were wounded.
A preliminary hearing and arraignment are yet to be scheduled. “I want everything as soon as possible,” Dear told the judge.
May said a decision on whether to seek the death penalty would come within about two months after the arraignment.
Dear is accused of killing a police officer and two civilians in a shooting rampage on November 27. The closely watched case has already united even staunch opponents in the abortion debate.
U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch called the shooting a “crime against women receiving health care services.” Vicki Cowart, president of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, said she believes the shooter “was motivated by opposition to safe and legal abortion.”
The shooting brought common ground between Planned Parenthood’s leadership and conservative presidential candidate Mike Huckabee: Both called it an act of terrorism.
“I think there’s a lot of belief that this qualifies as a form of domestic terrorism,” Dawn Laguens, Planned Parenthood’s chief experience officer, said.
Huckabee echoed that sentiment.
“What he did is domestic terrorism, and what he did is absolutely abominable – especially to us in the pro-life movement, because there’s nothing about any of us that would condone or in any way look the other way on something like this,” Huckabee said.
A hermit’s shanty
Dear apparently lived in solitude in the Carolinas, then more recently in Colorado. He is believed to have moved from North Carolina to Colorado about a year ago, living in an RV on a vacant piece of land.
Over a decade ago, he had some run-ins with the law while living in South Carolina but was not convicted.
In 1997, Dear’s wife accused him of domestic assault, although no charges were pressed, according to records from the Colleton County Sheriff’s Office in South Carolina.
In 2002, Dear was charged with being a peeping Tom; those counts were dismissed.
In 2003, he was arrested and charged with two counts of animal cruelty, but he was found not guilty at a bench trial.
He later made his home in a hermit shanty in the mountains of North Carolina, CNN affiliate WLOS reported. It published a photo of a small, basic cabin in the woods of Buncombe County.
The Sheriff’s Office there knew Dear from a single civil citation issued in 2014 for allowing his dogs to run wild.
Planned Parenthood videos
Planned Parenthood has recently faced intense political and social opposition.
Eight undercover videos released over the summer by anti-abortion activists have stirred caustic criticism against the reproductive health services provider. The controversy has reached the halls of Congress, where conservative politicians have demanded the group’s defunding.
Planned Parenthood has said the videos, which alleged illegal fetal organ sales, were heavily edited and inaccurate.
At least three of the organization’s buildings have been vandalized since September, not long after the last video appeared.
The violence and vandalism are troubling signs that the language political leaders use could have dangerous repercussions, Planned Parenthood CEO Cecile Richards told CNN’s “AC360” on Monday.
“It is really disturbing to see the kind of hateful rhetoric about Planned Parenthood, about the women who come to us, about the doctors who provide health care,” she said. “It’s very hard to see these kinds of violent incidents that I think sometimes this rhetoric fuels.”
Paul Vercammen reported from Colorado Springs and Holly Yan reported and wrote in Atlanta. CNN’s Sheena Jones, Catherine E. Shoichet and Phil Gast contributed to this report.