BY KEITH COFFMAN | REUTERS
A gunman stormed a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in Colorado Springs on Friday and opened fire with a rifle in an attack that left three people dead and nine others injured, authorities said.
The dead included one police officer and two civilians, Colorado Springs Police Chief Peter Carey told reporters about an hour after the suspect had been captured.
All nine surviving victims – five police officers and four civilians – were listed in good condition at area hospitals, Carney said.
The suspect first engaged in a gun battle with police but ultimately surrendered to officers inside the building about five hours after the start of the violence, which played out under a steady snowfall in Colorado’s second-largest city.
A Reuters photographer at the scene saw a man in a white T-shirt with his hands cuffed behind his back being taken out of an armored police vehicle and placed in an unmarked squad car.
Police said they did not expect to confirm the suspect’s identity before Saturday, but believed he acted alone.
The Denver Post and the Colorado Springs Gazette newspapers, each citing an unidentified law enforcement source, reported Friday night that the suspect was identified as Robert Lewis Dear. The Post gave his age as 57, but neither paper had further details.
The slain lawman was identified as Garrett Swasey, 44, a campus police officer for the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs who joined city police in responding to the first reports of shots fired, authorities said.
Police declined to discuss the gunman’s motivations. But the president of the Rocky Mountains chapter of Planned Parenthood, Vicki Cowart, suggested a climate of rancor surrounding abortion in the United States sets the stage for such violence.
“We share the concerns of many Americans that extremists are creating a poisonous environment that feeds domestic terrorism in this country,” she said.
Cowart told CNN separately that some of the clinic’s staff escaped the gunman by following security protocol and hunkering down in “safe rooms” built into the facility.
The Colorado Springs clinic has been the target of repeated protests by anti-abortion activists, and in recent years moved to new quarters on the city’s northwest side – a facility derided as a “fortress” by critics of Planned Parenthood.
The national non-profit group, devoted to providing a range of reproductive health services, including abortions, has come under renewed pressure in recent months from conservatives in Congress seeking to cut off federal support for the organization.
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Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers said authorities were able to help guide the movements of officers through the building by watching live feeds from surveillance cameras mounted inside…
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(Additional reporting by Rick Wilking in Colorado Springs; Daniel Wallis in Denver; Dan Whitcomb and Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles, Eric M. Johnson in Chicago, Laila Kearney in New York, and Andy Sullivan in Washington; Writing by Steve Gorman; Editing by Steve Orlofsky, Tom Brown, Lisa Shumaker & Kim Coghill)