Update: Police have now named the other two murdered victims so this article has been updated with that information.
The Colorado Springs police department has not officially disclosed what caused a 57 year old man to go on a killing spree which took three lives and wounded nine others. Law enforcement sources have told CNN Sunday that the suspect told police he has anti-abortion views and he mentioned “baby parts.” This could mean that he was incited to commit murder after seeing the doctored videos released by a pro-life group claiming to show Planned Parenthood officials selling baby parts.
Robert Lewis Dear, a former North Carolina resident with a troubled past, moved to Colorado recently and was living in a modified camper shell in a mountain town west of Colorado Springs. On Friday, he went to a Planned Parenthood facility and began shooting. Dear had propane tanks in the parking lot and was trying to set off an explosion. He surrendered when a Swat Team confronted him.
One of the three he killed was a young police officer who bravely ran towards him which prevented him from killing more people. Several other brave police officers were wounded trying to stop the slaughter. Another was an Army veteran Ke’Arre Stewart, a father of two, and Jennifer Markovsky, a mother of two, Mr. Stewart was shot outside but ran in despite being wounded to warn others before he lost his life. No one who worked for Planned Parenthood was killed according to a spokesman.
Earlier this year an anti-abortion group released a series of heavily edited videos which made it appear that Planned Parenthood was selling baby parts. In fact, Planned Parenthood does not sell baby parts and only collects a fee to cover the cost of storing and transporting tissue and other organs donated by the mother to aid medical research. The practice has been legal since the 1990s. The videos were deliberately edited to make it appear Planned Parenthood was profiting from these tissue donations.
The videos caused a firestorm of outrage among pro-life and religious groups. Republican politicians, seeing an opportunity for political gain, used the videos as an excuse to defund Planned Parenthood—something they have tried to do long before the videos were produced. There have been many acts of vandalism at Planned Parenthood clinics following the release of the videos. Now, they may have inspired this deadly shooting spree. They are likely to inspire more killings by anti-abortion zealots.
Although police have not released any information, others have connected the dots. The mayor of Colorado Springs, a conservative Republican, former prosecutor, and former Colorado Attorney General, John Struthers, told reporters “You can certainly infer what (the motive) may have been in terms of where it took place and the manner in which it took place.”
U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said it was a “crime against women receiving health care services,” and she pledged the full resources of her office to investigate. Vicki Cowart, president of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, went beyond an inference, saying the shooter “was motivated by opposition to safe and legal abortion.”
Republican presidential candidates were on the defensive on all the Sunday morning news shows. They have all used the videos themselves to gin up support from Catholic and Evangelical voters. Now that a police officer is dead and others are in the hospital, they want to make sure that no one infers that these killings were inspired by rhetoric they have used.
Donald Trump said on “Meet the Press” that the killer was a maniac and downplayed any political motive. Carly Fiorina said that the coverage of the murders was “left wing spin.” The fact is Fiorina falsely described the videos in a presidential debate. Governor Mike Huckabee said on CNN it was disingenuous to blame the shootings on anti-abortion activists. Ben Carson, however, said on “Meet the Press” that both sides need to tone down the rhetoric. He said there is too much anger in America now.
Heated rhetoric may be good politics but it is dangerous. There are many people who hear this angry hate-talk and feel they need to avenge the evil they perceive. This results in many innocent victims like the brave police office in Colorado Springs. Carson is right. The rhetoric needs to be toned down—including his own.