‘If you talked to him, nothing with him was very cognitive,’ neighbor says of Robert Lewis Dear as motive remains unclear in attack on clinic
Officials were not immediately able to establish a motive for the deadly shooting at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood clinic on Friday. But on Saturday, a picture of the suspected gunman, Robert Lewis Dear, began to emerge.
Dear is the top suspect in a shooting that left three people dead, including police officer Garrett Swasey, and injured nine others. Police said the gunman used a “long gun”, usually a reference to a rifle – potentially an assault weapon – or a shotgun.
The city of Colorado Springs confirmed his identity on Saturday morning and released a booking photo of the bearded 57-year-old from North Carolina. He is suspected of opening fire at the women’s health clinic just before noon on Friday, the beginning of an hours-long standoff with police.
Colorado Springs police lieutenant Catherine Buckley said on Friday it was too early to determine the suspect’s motive.
“We don’t have any information on this individual’s mentality, or his ideas or ideology,” she said.
Mayor John Suthers reaffirmed these comments on Saturday, though he added that people could make “inferences from where [the shooting] took place”.
Planned Parenthood provides a range of women’s healthcare services including abortion. The organisation has been at the centre of political controversy over videos released by an anti-abortion group which purport to show employees discussing the sale of fetal tissue. Planned Parenthood denies any wrongdoing by staff.
Suthers said investigators interviewed Dear and were trying to learn more about him.
James Russell, who lives down the mountain from Dear’s cabin in North Carolina, told the Associated Press that when Lewis spoke with him he would ramble, avoid eye contact and not make sense. Russell said he had not spoken to Lewis about issues such as abortion or religion.
Dear’s North Carolina cabin is outside Asheville, though he is also said to have lived in a house in nearby Swannanoa . His neighbor said the cabin had no running water or electricity.
“If you talked to him, nothing with him was very cognitive – topics all over place,” said Russell.
Colorado’s Park County sheriff’s office said the shooting suspect also had a residence in Hartsel, Colorado. It was closed to public access on Saturday morning.
According to public records, Dear has lived in North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia and has a record of brushes with the law . In South Carolina in January 2003, he was arrested on two counts of animal cruelty. He was found not guilty by Colleton County court.
In the same county in 2002, Dear faced a misdemeanor charge for “peeping tom, eavesdropping or peeping”. The charges were dismissed at a preliminary hearing.
Buckley said it took a few hours to establish communication with Dear on Saturday. But by 4pm, police were able to enter the clinic and convince him to surrender.
“We did get officers inside the building,” Buckley said. “They were able to shout to the suspect and make communication with him, and at that point they were able to get him to surrender and he was taken into custody.”
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