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Planned Parenthood gunman lived in NC woods with no electricity, running water

Legal experts weigh in on potential charges

 

The accused Colorado Planned Parenthood gunman was a loner who lived in a mountain cabin in the North Carolina woods without electricity or running water and had a history of arrests in South Carolina, according to reports.

Police say Robert Lewis Dear, 57, killed three people, including a police officer, and wounded nine others after he stormed the clinic in Colorado Springs Friday wearing a trench coat and carrying a rifle, possibly an AK-47.

Those who knew Dear told the Associated Press Saturday he seemed to have few religious or political leanings.

"If you talked to him, nothing with him was very cognitive -- topics all over place," said James Russell, who lives a few hundred feet from Dear in Black Mountain. A cross made of twigs hung Saturday on the wall of Dear's pale yellow shack.

Neighbors of Dear’s in North Carolina said the man kept mostly to himself and Russell said that two topics he never heard Dear talk about during his ramblings were religion or abortion.

Dear's cabin is a half-mile up a curvy dirt road about 15 miles west of Asheville, N.C. He also had a trailer in the nearby town of Swannanoa.

Other neighbors knew Dear but didn't want to give their names because they said they were fearful he might retaliate, the Associated Press reported.

The 6-foot-4 Dear surrendered to police following a five-hour siege that included several gun battles with police as patients and staff members took cover under furniture and inside locked rooms.

Colorado Springs mayor John Suthers said Saturday that authorities weren't ready to discuss a possible motive but said people can “make inferences from where it took place.”

He said investigators had interviewed Dear but authorities still wanted to learn more about him, suggesting that Dear’s mental health was part of the investigation.

Later Saturday evening, a law enforcement official told the Associated Press that Dear reportedly made a "no more baby parts" remark following his arrest.

The official said he could not elaborate about the comment, and spoke on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to speak publicly about the ongoing investigation.

Planned Parenthood said late Saturday that witnesses said the gunman was motivated by his opposition to abortion.

The attack thrust the clinic to the center of the ongoing debate over Planned Parenthood, which was re-ignited in July when anti-abortion activists released undercover video they said showed the organization's personnel negotiating the sale of fetal organs.

Planned Parenthood has denied seeking any payments beyond legally permitted reimbursement costs for donating the organs to researchers. Still, the National Abortion Federation says it has since seen a rise in threats at clinics nationwide.

The anti-abortion activists, part of a group called the Center for Medical Progress, denounced the "barbaric killing spree in Colorado Springs by a violent madman" and offered prayers for the dead and wounded and for their families.

The regional head of Planned Parenthood Vicki Cowart said Saturday that Dear "broke in" to the clinic but didn't get past a locked door leading to the main part of the facility.

Cowart said there was no armed security on Friday when Dear launched his attack but she defended the level of security in place at the time, saying people going to a health clinic shouldn't have to walk through metal detectors.

At least four of those injured in the shooting have been released from hospitals, officials said Saturday.

Those out of the hospital included Ozy Licano, who was injured when the gunman fired on him in the parking lot. The other three haven't been identified.

The nine people who were hospitalized, included five police officers.

The three killed in the attack included a University of Colorado Colorado Springs police officer, Garrett Swasey. The other two victims haven't been publicly identified yet.

It marked the latest mass shooting to stun the nation and prompted President Barack Obama to warn, "We can't let it become normal" as he called for more gun control.

The criminal cases against Dear in South Carolina were for domestic violence, peeping tom, animal cruelty and other charges out of Colleton and Beaufort counties, the Charleston Post and Courier reported Saturday citing records.

In 1997 Dear’s wife told Colleton County deputies that her husband hit her, took her keys and locked her out of their home, the paper reported.

A police report of the incident says she tried to enter through a window but Dear pushed her out, causing bruises to her body. No charges were filed against Dear at the time, the paper reported.

The paper reported that Dear was arrested in 2003 on a cruelty to animal charge but was found not guilty in 2004. It also reported that Dear was charged with peeping tom in 2002 but that charge was later dismissed.

In the small town of Hartsel, Colorado, about 60 miles west of Colorado Springs, about a dozen police vehicles and fire trucks were parked outside a small white trailer belonging to Dear located on a sprawling swath of land. Property records indicate Dear purchased the land about a year ago.

A law enforcement official said authorities searched the trailer Saturday but found no explosives. The official, who has direct knowledge of the case, said authorities also talked with a woman who was living in the trailer. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to speak publicly about the ongoing investigation.

Dear was in jail Saturday on what officials said were "administrative holds." Charges apparently won't be lodged until he appears in court Monday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.