AP) – A gunman burst into a Planned Parenthood clinic and opened fire, launching several gunbattles and an hourslong standoff with police as patients and staff took cover under furniture and inside locked rooms. By the time the shooter surrendered, three people were killed – including a police officer – and nine others were wounded, authorities said.
For hours, police had no communication with the shooter other than intermittent gunfire from inside the Colorado Springs clinic. As the standoff progressed, officers inside the building herded people into one area and evacuated others.
Officers eventually moved in, shouted at the gunman and persuaded him to surrender, police said. About five hours after the attack started, authorities led away a man wearing a white T-shirt.
Police identified him as 57-year-old Robert Lewis Dear of North Carolina. Jail booking records indicate Dear is due in court on Monday.
No other details about the suspect were immediately available, including whether he had any connection to Planned Parenthood.
“We don’t have any information on this individual’s mentality, or his ideas or ideology,” Colorado Springs police Lt. Catherine Buckley told reporters on Friday.
She said Saturday that the items Dear brought to the scene were “no longer a threat,” but she would not say what those items were or why they were no longer considered a threat. Investigators expect to study the crime scene for several days, Buckley said.
Planned Parenthood said all of its staff at the clinic was safe. The organization said it did not know the circumstances or motives behind the attack or whether the organization was the target.
“This is not normal. We can’t let it become normal,” President Barack Obama said in a statement. “If we truly care about this – if we’re going to offer up our thoughts and prayers again, for God knows how many times, with a truly clean conscience – 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. Period. Enough is enough.”
The University of Colorado in Colorado Springs police department identified the officer killed as 44-year-old Garrett Swasey, a six-year veteran of the force. He was married and had a son and daughter, according to the website of his church, Hope Chapel in Colorado Springs.