At 11:38 AM on Friday, the Colorado Springs Police Department (CSPD) was notified of an active shooter situation at the local Planned Parenthood clinic. According to a suspect description relayed over the police scanner, the shooter was a white man with a “white beard,” wearing a long coat and a hunting hat with flaps on the side. The man allegedly behind the shooting was later identified as Robert Lewis Dear, 57.
According to court records, Dear was charged in 2002 with cruelty to animals, but was found not guilty. That same year, in South Carolina, he was charged with peeping tom, eavesdropping, or peeping, but the charges were dismissed.
As of Saturday morning all items brought to the scene by the suspect have been secured and processed, the Colorado Springs Police Department Public Information Officer told The Daily Beast. They are all no longer deemed a threat. However the department is not currently willing to publicly name any of those items. In addition, the department says it may take days for charges, as the scene itself could take several days for investigation.
After the shooter had been apprehended, CSPD spokesperson Lieutenant Catherine Buckley conveyed the tragic news: one University of Colorado police officer and two civilians were dead. Several more had been injured. What occurred in the interim was a horrific, hours-long standoff between the armed man inside the clinic and police outside of it.
Despite the Thanksgiving holiday, the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood clinic was open on Friday for appointments when the first shots were fired. After police initially responded, at least three officers were reported injured, with one reportedly shot in the hand. Two civilians were injured and subsequently transported to the hospital early on, with one in stable condition, per scanner traffic. But the gunman was still inside, and according to the scanner, police were attempting to verify the location of at least 12 people as the situation unfolded.
Many of these people hid in bathrooms and closets, with the gunman still inside. Outside, officers who were in contact with people inside established a code to allow officers entering the clinic to identify themselves to those hiding: a certain pattern of door-knocking that would let them know that they were police, not the shooter.
Around 2 p.m. local time, the shooter was contained in an office and fired his weapon but he then moved toward the reception area of the clinic. Once within view of police, he was described as having a “really stocky build” with “guns down by his waist.” He was wearing a “trenchcoat” and armed with an “AK-47” or a “long gun,” according to scanner traffic. The gunfire continued and more reports of injuries emerged.
Then, after a victim in the bathroom was reported as having been shot in the chest, police drove a BearCat armored vehicle through the clinic and began evacuating civilians. Around 2:45 p.m., a local Fox reporter spotted seven people being escorted to safety. At that time, a total of five victims were being treated in the hospital, FOX21 News reported, although the exact breakdown of police and civilians was unclear, as a hospital spokesperson told The Denver Post.
At 3:20 p.m., Penrose Hospital announced on Twitter that they now had six patients from the shooting but the count would rise higher by nightfall.
On Friday afternoon, with the shooter still not in custody, Lt. Buckley confirmed at a press conference that the situation had started at Planned Parenthood—contrary to rumors that the incident was a bank robbery gone awry—and that four officers had been shot. She added that the suspect had brought “several items with him” and that police “have to make sure [they] are not any type of devices.”
Shortly after Lt. Buckley’s press conference concluded—near 5 p.m.—the suspect was detained alive. Officers established voice contact with the man, shouting at him, and then accepting his surrender. After he was taken into custody, police swept the building for explosives.
At a second press conference held after the shooer was detained, Lt. Buckley noted that 11 people had been transported to the hospital, five of them police officers. At 6 p.m., KOAA reported two fatalities: a University of Colorado police officer and a civilian. Finally, at Friday’s last press conference, which concluded shortly after 7 p.m., Lt. Buckley confirmed those fatalities, and an additional civilian fatality, bringing the total to three.
The CSPD tweeted the final count: Apart from the fatalities, 5 CSPD officers and 4 civilians had been wounded. All, thankfully, were in good condition.
This shooting is at least the fifth high-profile crime at a Planned Parenthood clinic since the release of the Center for Medical Progress’s undercover sting videos this July. In early September, a fire at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Pullman, Washington, was ruled to be an arson. A second arson at a clinic in Thousand Oaks, California, came one month later. Two other attempted arsons have taken place at a clinic in Aurora, Illinois, and at one under construction in New Orleans.
In an initial statement to The Daily Beast, Vicki Cowart, the president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Rocky Mountain (PPRM), said: “At this time, our concern is for the safety of our patients, staff, and law enforcement. This is a developing situation, and we’ll continue to share updates as we have them.”
Later in the day, PPRM released the following statement: “Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountain’s top priority is the safety of our patients and staff. Our hearts go out to everyone involved in this tragic situation. Planned Parenthood has strong security measures in place, works closely with law enforcement agencies, and has a very strong safety record. We don’t yet know the full circumstances and motives behind this criminal action, and we don’t yet know if Planned Parenthood was in fact the target of this attack. We share the concerns of many Americans that extremists are creating a poisonous environment that feeds domestic terrorism in this country. We will never back away from providing care in a safe, supportive environment that millions of people rely on and trust.”