A gunman opened fire near a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in Colorado Springs, killing three people, including one officer and two civilians, according to reports emerging in the media.
The Colorado Springs Department confirmed that four officers and five officers were shot in the facility by a North Carolina man who has now been identified as the 57-year-old Robert Lewis Dear, a police officer told Associated Press (via NY Times) on conditions of anonymity.
Though the motivation behind the shootings remains unclear, early reports suggest that it was a premeditated attack. The Planned Parenthood facility provides abortions, screening for sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancy testing and other services, according to its website.
A spokesperson for Planned Parenthood confirmed the motive behind the attack was unknown, but pointed to what she called a “poisonous environment that feeds domestic terrorism” as a possible cause.
“We share the concerns of many Americans that extremists are creating a poisonous environment that feeds domestic terrorism in this country,” she said.
Metro reported that the Planned Parenthood facility in Colorado Springs has been under scrutiny since an edited video suggested the organization was selling fetal tissue. Although the charges were found to be baseless, anti-abortion campaigners and some lawmakers have since called for the facility to have its funding cut off.
Abortion is a divisive issue in the politically competitive state of Colorado, according to Reuters, figuring prominently in attack ads during last year’s hard-fought senate race between incumbent Democrat Mark Udall and Republican challenger Cory Gardner, the winner of the election.
Witnesses said that Colorado Springs Police and the Colorado State Patrol responded to calls about an active shooter near the Planned Parenthood facility immediately, but the standoff with the gunman continued for almost six hours, before the gunman was finally taken into custody.
Brigitte Wolfe, who said she works in the area of shooting, told reporters that she could see three SWAT vehicles and roughly seven police cars from her vantage point across the street from the Planned Parenthood clinic.
“We were looking out the window and we had an officer wave us back inside,” she told Denver Post. “They have everything blocked off.”
A dispatcher said the gunman wore a long coat with a hunting-type hat and attacked with an assault-rifle, according to the Gazette.
The officer who lost his life in the shootings has been identified as the 44-year-old Garrett Swasey, who worked for the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs and was on campus about 10 miles away when the shooting broke out. He went to the scene “in support of an officer under fire,” according to CNN.
In light of the attacks, Twitter has seen a vitriolic outburst from people, who have branded the shootings everything from an act of “domestic terrorism” to it even being called a “heroic act” from anti-abortion campaigners.
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