Before the world even knew that Robert Lewis Dear was the active shooter at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood, the organization assumed that anger against the reproductive health clinic inspired the violence.
That shooter appeared in court Wednesday, and if his deranged outbursts are any indication of his motive — which hasn’t officially been determined yet — Planned Parenthood was right. In one of those outbursts, he called himself a “warrior for the babies.”
Robert Lewis Dear, 57, appeared before a judge to face charges related to the November 27 attack, NBC News reported. A criminal complaint lists 179 felony counts, among them eight counts of first-degree murder, and 131 of attempted first-degree murder.
Killed that day were police officer Garrett Swasey, Jennifer Markovsky, 36, and Army veteran Ke’Arre Marcell Stewart.
Planned Parenthood immediately blamed the shooting on anti-abortion activism and its “hateful rhetoric.” In a statement to the Washington Post, National Abortion Federation President Vicki Saporta criticized pro-life activists.
“They have ignited a firestorm of hate. They knew there could be these types of consequences, and yet they ratcheted up the rhetoric and ratcheted it up and ratcheted it up. It’s not a huge surprise that somebody would take this type of action.”
As Robert Lewis Dear’s attorney, public defender Daniel King, ignored his client and police officers frequently attempted to calm him down, the accused terrorist — “eyes wide and his hair unkempt” — interrupted the proceedings with anti-abortion outbursts.
Slate went so far as to say that these angered comments made it clear that he attacked “Planned Parenthood because of how he viewed the work it does as an abortion provider.”
During Robert Lewis Dear’s court appearance, he admitted his guilt but said “there is no trial. I’m a warrior for the babies.” He also uttered “protect the babies” during proceedings. His attorney, who also defended Aurora, Colorado, movie theater shooter James Holmes, asked the judge to impose a gag order to stymie publicity, to which his client shouted “Truth!”
“You’ll never know what I saw in that clinic. Atrocities. The babies. That’s what they want to seal.”
He also accused his attorney of being in “cahoots” with Planned Parenthood, which he told the court kills babies.
“Nobody will ever know the amount of blood I saw inside that place. I want the truth to come out. There’s a lot more to this than me to go silently into the grave,” Robert Lewis Dear ranted.
PHOTO: Planned Parenthood shooting suspect Robert Lewis Dear during outburst at court hearing: https://t.co/eSJyYwKI9K
— The Associated Press (@AP) December 9, 2015
As his client continued to intersperse the court proceedings with his rants, King admitted he had “serious concerns” about Robert Lewis Dear’s competency, and a hearing to discuss his mental state is scheduled for just before Christmas.
Robert Lewis Dear’s behavior in court Wednesday echoes a comment he reportedly made about “baby parts” after his arrest, which was released to the public by an anonymous official.
The Post said that reference could refer to the controversy that swarmed the nonprofit after a pro-life activist group circulated a video purporting to show Planned Parenthood officials discussing the harvesting of fetal tissue. The organization said the video was edited, but Congress still conducted an investigation.
AP reports that Robert Lewis Dear asked for directions to Planned Parenthood https://t.co/8pro4RQUvJ
— Irin Carmon (@irin) December 8, 2015
— Jessica Leicht KKTV (@JessLeichtKKTV) December 9, 2015
Both anti-abortion groups and Republicans who’d spoken out vehemently against Planned Parenthood after the videos’ release distanced themselves from Robert Lewis Dear and condemned the attack.
He could face the death penalty, but prosecutors haven’t decided whether to seek that sentence. A criminal defense lawyer, Patrick Mika, predicted to Colorado Springs news station KRDO that Robert Lewis Dear may face domestic terrorism charges, especially in light of his apparent political motivation.
“His representations about his beliefs are the kinds of things that could get him charged with a domestic terrorism offense. One of the things he’s opposing is that his acts of violence were in support of changing a government policy towards abortion.”
Another attorney expects the case to eventually make its way in front of a jury.
[Photo by Andy Cross/Associated Press]