Planned Parenthood shooting: Suspect said 'no more baby parts'

media captionEyewitness Ozy Licano: ''He started shooting and I was looking at his face''

The suspect in a deadly gun attack on a Colorado family planning clinic said "no more baby parts" during his arrest, US media report.

Witnesses say Robert Lewis Dear was motivated by opposition to abortion, according to Planned Parenthood, which runs the clinic in Colorado Springs.

Two civilians and a police officer died and nine other people were injured.

US President Barack Obama has renewed his call for tighter gun control, saying "enough is enough".

Mr Obama's gun control efforts have been opposed in Congress.

Mr Dear has been described as a loner who lived in a mountain cabin in North Carolina.

Police did not give details on the gun used but in a statement, President Obama described it as "an assault weapon" and talked of ending the "easy accessibility of weapons of war" on America's streets.

Who is Robert Lewis Dear?

image copyrightAFP
  • Aged 57, owns a trailer on land in Hartsel, Colorado, about 60 miles (100km) west of Colorado Springs
  • Also owns a mountain cabin with no electricity or running water 15 miles west of Asheville, North Carolina, and had previously lived at Walterboro, South Carolina
  • Had arrest records in South and North Carolina including two counts of cruelty to animals in 2002, the Colorado Springs Gazette reported
  • A neighbour in North Carolina said he would often avoid eye contact and said religion or abortion never came up in conversation
  • Was an independent art dealer with a degree in public administration, according to the New York Times
  • Ex-wife Pamela Ross said told the paper she once called the police to accuse him of domestic violence
image copyrightAP
image captionMr Dear is known to have spent time at this shack near Black Mountain in North Carolina

Mr Obama has previously said that his failure to pass "common sense gun safety laws" in the US is the greatest frustration of his presidency.

The suspect's remarks were quoted by an unnamed law enforcement official who spoke to the Associated Press news agency.

The Planned Parenthood group has drawn anti-abortion protests in the past.

Vicki Cowart, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Rocky Mountains, said in a statement on Saturday: "Today, we are learning that eyewitnesses confirm that the man who will be charged with the tragic and senseless shooting that resulted in the deaths of three people and injuries to nine others at Planned Parenthood's health center in Colorado Springs was motivated by opposition to safe and legal abortion."

On Saturday, city police tweeted that they were searching a property linked to the suspect in the town of Hartsel, 105km (65 miles) west of where the shooting took place.

"If you talked to him, nothing with him was very cognitive - topics all over the place,'' said James Russell, who lives near the shack.

image copyrightReuters
image captionGarrett Swasey, who was killed, was a campus police officer for the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs (UCCS)

The dead police officer was named as Garrett Swasey, 44, who was married with two children.

Originally from Massachusetts, Mr Swasey moved to Colorado to pursue a career as a figure skater, and competed in national championships.

"He was a great dad," his father David told the Boston Globe. "Everybody in the police department loved him. Anybody who ever met him loved him."

At the scene

image copyrightReuters
image captionThe clinic was badly damaged in the gun battle

James Cook, BBC News, Colorado Springs

From the moment the shooting began, speculation about the gunman's motives has swirled in the cold Colorado air. Police are not saying whether the clinic was deliberately targeted. They insist they will pursue a methodical approach to establish exactly what happened here, however long that takes.

But we now have a hint, in the reported words of the suspect as he was arrested, "no more baby parts". That could refer to a campaign against the clinic's operators, Planned Parenthood, by opponents of abortion who have highlighted its role in providing foetal tissue in research.

The organisation says it is proud of its contribution to medical science and has declared that "extremists are creating a poisonous environment that feeds domestic terrorism in this country."

The controversy has already featured in the early stages of the campaign to secure the Republican nomination for president. Democratic President Obama's proposals to restrict access to certain weapons, including assault rifles, have also been hotly debated. This latest shooting has again highlighted deep divisions in these United States.

The other two victims have not yet been named.

Colorado Springs Police Chief Peter Carey said five police officers were among the injured, who were being treated in local hospitals.

Planned Parenthood has been the focus of protests recently after an anti-abortion organisation secretly recorded one of its staff discussing how to obtain aborted foetal tissue for medical research.

Pro-life advocates say this proves Planned Parenthood is selling foetal parts for profit - which is illegal - but this is disputed by the organisation.

What is Planned Parenthood?

  • A healthcare non-profit-making group with 59 affiliates and 700 clinics around the US
  • The largest single provider of abortion in the US
  • Its clinics provide many other healthcare services including cancer screening
  • Dates back to 1916 when social activist and nurse Margaret Sanger opened the first birth control and family planning centre in Brooklyn, New York
  • In the 1960s and 1970s, Planned Parenthood affiliates were at the fore of many court fights to make abortion legal

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