What We Know: Colorado Springs Shooting
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
The people of Colorado Springs are mourning the victims of Friday's shootings at a Planned Parenthood clinic. Three people are dead, including a police officer. The suspected gunman surrendered after a dramatic five-hour standoff. He's been identified by the police as 57-year-old Robert L. Dear. NPR's Kirk Siegler joins us from Colorado Springs now. Kirk, thanks for being with us.
KIRK SIEGLER, BYLINE: Good morning, Rachel.
MARTIN: You attended a vigil last night that was held in honor of the police officer Garrett Swasey who died in the shooting. What can you tell us about the service?
SIEGLER: Well, this was one of several held so far this weekend, several vigils. Last night, in the frigid cold, a couple hundred people gathered to honor the campus police officer. They lit candles. They prayed. The mayor of Colorado Springs, John Suthers, said the shooting wasn't even in Swasey's official jurisdiction.
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JOHN SUTHERS: But he knew that there were people in danger. He know - knew he was in proximity and he answered the call. And he paid for it with his life.
SIEGLER: Garrett Swasey was 44. He was a father of two. A source of mine who knew him and worked with them for a time told me he was the kind of guy who was in law enforcement for all the right reasons. The source called him very level-headed. Now, Rachel, the names of the other two victims have not been released yet. We're expecting that as early as tomorrow after results of autopsies come in. And it's not yet clear if those two were bystanders outside or if they were inside the Planned Parenthood clinic at the time of the shooting.
MARTIN: Details about the shooting have been slow in coming. What do you know, Kirk, what can you tell us about the investigation?
SIEGLER: Indeed, authorities have not been releasing a whole lot of information so far. And that's, you know, pretty typical in a situation like this where there's a suspect that's been apprehended and prosecutors are trying to build their criminal case against them. Here's what we do know. It appears the suspect, Robert Dear, is relatively new to Colorado. He has an addressed listed in a rural area about an hour away from here up in the mountains. We've also learned that Dear lived for a time in both South and North Carolina where he had several run-ins with law enforcement over the years. Those were mostly for traffic citations, though.
MARTIN: Any information at this point about a possible motive?
SIEGLER: Again, authorities are not confirming that the clinic was indeed a target or if this was random. You know, there's been plenty of speculation due to the fact of course the clinic provides abortion services and this shooting follows the release of those controversial videos about Planned Parenthood earlier this year. There was a large protest at this same clinic this past summer. And the mayor, who we just heard from, told reporters this weekend that people can make their own inferences about where this attack took place.
MARTIN: And this is happening, of course, in a state that has seen crimes like this before - the Columbine massacre, the Aurora movie theater massacre. And each time it seems there is this polarized debate that happens in Colorado about gun control.
SIEGLER: Rachel, it would be hard to find a city more polarized, actually, than this one, Colorado Springs, when it comes to issues like abortion and especially, as you say, guns. The politics are very complicated here. This is a military town. It's also home to lots of the evangelical churches; one of the most conservative cities in America within a state that's leaned Democratic lately. And not too long ago the state Senate president from here, a Democrat, was recalled after he helped pass new gun control laws after the Aurora movie theater shooting. There was even another mass shooting here just weeks ago where a man opened fire in a residential area and killed three people before he died in a shootout. It reignited a debate about open carry and it's, you know, safe to say this latest shooting will probably make the issue of guns even more polarized than it already was.
MARTIN: NPR's Kirk Siegler in Colorado Springs, thanks so much.
SIEGLER: Glad to be here.
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