The gunman in Friday’s shooting at a Colorado Planned Parenthood Friday was identified by Colorado Springs police Saturday as Robert L. Dear.
Police said Dear is 57. They also released a mug photo.
The shooter is from North Carolina, an unidentified law enforcement official told AP. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to speak about the ongoing investigation.
Three people, including one police officer, were killed in Friday’s attack. The gunman was taken into custody after an hours-long standoff and shootout. Authorities have yet to determine a motive behind the shooting or whether the gunman had any connection to Planned Parenthood.
The University of Colorado in Colorado Springs police department identified the officer killed as Garrett Swasey, 44, a six-year veteran of the force. Nine other people, including five police officers, were shot and are in good condition, police said.
President Obama reacted to the shooting in a statement Saturday that demanded more gun controls.
“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,” Obama said.
Lt. Catherine Buckley of the Colorado Springs Police Department said the gunman, described as wearing a long coat and armed with a rifle, gave up after officers inside the building shouted at him. He previously had been firing at police who entered the facility.
Buckley also said the unidentified man had brought “items” with him inside the building and left some outside, meaning officers had to make sure they were not “any kind of devices.”
The man apparently began his deadly spree at the Planned Parenthood building, although it was not clear if his motive was related to the organization.
“We don’t have any information on this individual’s mentality, or his ideas or ideology,” Buckley said.
After a brief lull, he began shooting again at police, who had gotten inside the building.
Buckley said there was no information indicating the gunman himself had been shot.
Multiple police vehicles and ambulances were parked outside the building in a snowstorm and 17 degree temperatures.
Police closed Centennial Boulevard in both directions and customers were locked down at a King Soopers grocery store and several nearby shops in the strip mall area. Buckley said officers were working through the process of releasing them.
Swasey was described by his fellow church members and friends as a courageous man and loving father who drew strength and inspiration from his Christian faith, The New York Times reported Saturday.
He was married, with two young children and was a co-pastor for seven years at Hope Chapel in Colorado Springs. “Here’s a guy who worked full time as a police officer, and then gave a great amount of time to his local church and didn’t get a dime for it,” co-pastor Scott Dontanville told the paper. “He did it because it was the thing that he felt he needed to do.”
Witnesses described a chaotic scene when the shooting first started.
Ozy Licano was in the two-story building’s parking lot when he saw someone crawling toward the clinic’s door. He tried to escape in his car when the gunman looked at him.
“He came out, and we looked each other in the eye, and he started aiming, and then he started shooting,” Licano said. “I saw two holes go right through my windshield as I was trying to quickly back up and he just kept shooting and I started bleeding.”
Licano drove away and took refuge at a nearby grocery store.
“He was aiming for my head,” he said of the gunman. “It’s just weird to stare in the face of someone like that. And he didn’t win.”
Denise Speller, manager at a nearby haircut salon, told the Gazette she heard 10 to 20 gunshots in the span of less than five minutes.
She said she saw a police cruiser and two officers outside near Chase Bank, not far from the Planned Parenthood facility. One of the officers appeared to fall to the ground and the other office knelt down to render aid, then tried to get the officer to safety behind the car, she said. Another officer told Speller to seek shelter inside the building.
“We’re still pretty freaked out,” Speller said by phone. “We can’t stop shaking. For now we’re stuck back here not knowing.”
Some people managed to escape the building and flee to a nearby bank. An armored vehicle was seen taking evacuees away from the clinic to ambulances waiting nearby.
With the immediate threat over, authorities swept the building and turned their attention to inspecting unspecified items the gunman left outside the building and carried inside in bags. They were concerned that he had planted improvised explosive devices meant to cause even more destruction. As of late Friday, police did not say what was found.