Police identify suspected shooter in Planned Parenthood attack

Law enforcement officials have identified the suspect in a shooting that left three dead at a Colorado Planned Parenthood clinic on Friday.

Robert Lewis Dear, 57, surrendered to Colorado Springs police on Friday afternoon after a 5-hour standoff that began just before noon. By the end of the day, a police officer and two civilians were dead. 

Garrett Swasey, 44, was identified as the officer slain during Friday’s shooting. He was a 6-year police veteran at the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs, officials said. The school’s chancellor told reporters that Swasey drove to the shooting “in support of an officer under fire.”

Officials have not released the names of the two deceased civilians. Nine other victims, including five police officers, were driven to nearby hospitals with gunshot wounds; all are said to be in good condition.

Colorado Springs Police Dept.

Dear will appear in court on Monday. He’s currently being held without bond at the El Paso County Jail. 

Dear in 2002 was charged and found not guilty of animal cruelty, the Daily Beast reported. He also reportedly had charges dismissed for “eavesdropping” or “peeping” that same year. A man claiming to be Dear’s neighbor told the New York Daily News that the alleged shooter lived in a cabin without electricity or water near Black Mountain, North Carolina. 

At time of writing, no further information has been released by the police. 

Planned Parenthood’s clinic off Centennial Boulevard in Colorado Springs is located just south of a rehabilitation center and nursing home. Further south is a Chase Bank and a shopping area, where terrified victims fled on Friday to escape the gunfire. Over police radio, the shooter was described as a “stocky” white male with a white beard, wearing a “trenchcoat.”

After a man who had been shot multiple times in the chest stumbled into a grocery store, a nurse inside held his hand and tended to his wounds for an hour before the authorities determined it was safe to transport him.

Across the parking lot to the north, police rammed a BearCat armored vehicle into the Planned Parenthood clinic to rescue people inside. At 4:52pm, they announced that they had the suspected shooter in custody. He was photographed outside the clinic in handcuffs. Civilians secured in shops nearby were then bussed to a local furniture store to meet their families while their cars were swept for explosives.

About 115 police officers responded to the shooting, in addition to agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF).

President Obama later issued a statement that decried “the easy accessibility of weapons of war on our streets to people who have no business wielding them.” 

In a statement on Friday, Vicki Cowart, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Rocky Mountains, said that all of the clinic’s staff was safe and accounted for. She thanked law enforcement for acting “with such selfless valor.”

Cowart added that while it remains unknown whether Dear deliberately targeted the clinic, her organization “shares the concerns of many Americans that the continued attacks against abortion providers and patients, as well as law enforcement officers, is creating a poisonous environment that breeds acts of violence.”

Photo via Colorado Springs Police Dept.

Dell Cameron

Dell Cameron

Dell Cameron was a reporter at the Daily Dot who covered security and politics. In 2015, he revealed the existence of an American hacker on the U.S. government's terrorist watchlist. He is a co-author of the Sabu Files, an award-nominated investigation into the FBI's use of cyber-informants. He became a staff writer at Gizmodo in 2017.