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VIDEO REPORT ON THE SHOOTING IN COLORADO ABORTION CLINIC

Republican abortion policies show shift in attitude

Colorado Springs:  Police arrested a gunman who stormed a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in Colorado Springs on Friday and opened fire with a rifle in an attack that left three people dead and nine others injured, authorities said.

The dead included one police officer and two civilians, Colorado Springs Police Chief Peter Carey told reporters about an hour after the suspect had been captured.

Emergency personnel transport an officer to an ambulance after reports of a shooting near the Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs image www.crimefiles.net

Emergency personnel transport an officer to an ambulance after reports of a shooting near the Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs.

All nine surviving victims – five police officers and four civilians – were listed in a stable condition at area hospitals, Carney said.
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The suspect first engaged in a protracted gun battle with police but ultimately surrendered to officers inside the building about five hours after the start of the violence, which played out under a steady snowfall in Colorado’s second-largest city.

A witness at the scene saw a man in a white t-shirt, with his hands cuffed behind his back, being taken out of an armoured police vehicle and placed in an unmarked squad car. Authorities said they did not know the suspect’s identity but believed he had acted alone.

Emergency personnel transport an injured officer near the Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs image www.crimefiles.net

Emergency personnel transport an injured officer near the Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs on Friday.

The slain police officer was identified as Garrett Swasey, 44, a campus officer at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, who joined city police in responding to the first reports of shots fired, authorities said.

Police declined to discuss the gunman’s motivations. But the president of the Rocky Mountains chapter of Planned Parenthood, Vicki Cowart, suggested a climate of rancour surrounding abortion in the US sets the stage for such violence. “We share the concerns of many Americans that extremists are creating a poisonous environment that feeds domestic terrorism in this country,” she said.

Ms Cowart told CNN that some of the clinic’s staff escaped the gunman by following security protocol and hunkering down in “safe rooms” built into the facility.

An officer ready to shoot after reports of a shooting near a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs image www.crimefiles.net

An officer ready to shoot after reports of a shooting near a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs on Friday.

The Colorado Springs clinic has been the target of repeated protests by anti-abortion activists, and in recent years moved to new quarters on the city’s northwest side – a facility derided as a “fortress” by critics of Planned Parenthood.

The national non-profit group, devoted to providing a range of reproductive health services, including abortions, has come under renewed pressure in recent months from conservatives in Congress seeking to cut off federal support for the organisation.

Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers said authorities were able to help guide the movements of officers through the building by watching live feeds from surveillance cameras mounted inside.

But a city police spokeswoman, Lieutenant Catherine Buckley, said it took officers a number of hours to establish communication with the suspect before he gave himself up.

“We did get officers inside the building. They were able to shout to the suspect and make communication with him and at that point they were able to get him to surrender and he was taken into custody,” Lieutenant Buckley said.

An hour earlier, police said progress in securing the building was slowed by the fact that the gunman brought “some bags” with him into the clinic and left several items outside, all of which needed to be checked for possible booby traps or explosives.

CNN reported that investigators had located the suspect’s car, and the vehicle would be searched for explosives. Police swarmed the area around the building after an emergency call reporting shots fired at about 11.30 am and officers ultimately confronted the suspect inside the building, Lieutenant Buckley said.

Television footage aired by CNN showed a number of clinic staff and patients being escorted safely into police vehicles from the building, which lies on the northwest side of Colorado Springs, 112 km south of Denver. The FBI and agents from the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were assisting local law enforcement investigators.

President Barack Obama was notified of the shooting by his Homeland Security adviser, Lisa Monaco, and “will be updated on the situation as necessary, a White House official said.

As in much of the rest of the country, abortion is a divisive issue in Colorado, figuring prominently in attack ads during last year’s US Senate race between incumbent Democrat Mark Udall and Republican challenger Cory Gardner, the winner of the election.

At least eight abortion clinic workers have been killed since 1977, according to the National Abortion Federation – most recently in 2009, when abortion doctor George Tiller was shot to death at church in Wichita, Kansas.

Clinics have reported nearly 7000 incidents of trespassing, vandalism, arson, death threats, and other forms of violence since then, according to the abortion-rights group.

Hundreds of protesters picketed in front of the Colorado Springs clinic in August as part of a push by abortion opponents to cut off public funding for Planned Parenthood, according to the Colorado Springs Gazette.

Colorado Springs was the scene of a mass shooting on October 31 in which a gunman killed three people near downtown before dying in a shootout with police.

The city, home to the U.S. Air Force Academy and the U.S. Olympic training center, is also a hub for conservative Christian groups such as Focus on the Family that oppose abortion.

The attack in Colorado sent jitters across the country. The New York City Police Department reported it had redeployed some of its “critical response” vehicles to Planned Parenthood locations throughout the city. However, it said there were no specific threats to those sites at this time.

Earlier, the New York Times reported that the man had exchanged gunfire with police with the confrontation overheard on police scanners.

“We’re exchanging gunfire,” one officer was reported to have said, “We are trying to keep him pinned down.”

“Put gunfire through the walls,” came a reply. “Whatever, we got to stop this guy.”

Lieutenant Buckley told reporters the shooter was a white man dressed in a trench coat and armed with an assault rifle.

The Denver Post reported that local man Joan Motolinia said his sister Jennifer, who had an appointment at the clinic, was hiding under a table when he last spoke to her on the phone. He heard gunshots before she hung up. He had not heard from her since.

The gunman went inside the clinic about 11.30am on Friday (Denver time) and opened fire repeatedly on police officers through windows, USA Today reports.

“Rounds are coming through the window,” one police officer told the dispatcher on the police scanner.

Penrose-St. Francis Hospital received six patients, spokeswoman Jill Woodford said. Memorial Hospital received three, spokeswoman Erin Emery said. The Colorado Springs Police Department said four police officers were among the injured.

President Barack Obama was briefed on the situation in the city, which is about 12 kilometres south of Denver, by his Homeland Security Advisor Lisa Monaco, according to an official who described the conversation on condition of anonymity.

Mike Violette, executive director of the Colorado Fraternal Order of Police, said on Twitter: “Shooter barricaded in planned parenthood & multiple victims.”

The wounded are not confined to the abortion clinic, ambulance authorities say one person was wounded at a local eye clinic nearby, The Gazette, a Colorado newspaper, reports. The newspaper said one victim was taken by stretcher to an ambulance.

The Gazette also reports that a police car rear window was shot out after an officer tried to drive by to get a look at the gunman.

At least 10 ambulances are lined up along the street waiting for the injured.

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A woman is escorted by emergency workers away from the scene. Photo: Daniel Owen/The Gazette via AP

This is the second mass shooting in Colorado Springs in less than a month. On Oct. 31, a gunman walking through a residential neighborhood near downtown Colorado Springs killed three people. The gunman in that incident was killed by police.

 Fairfax Media, Reuters, Bloomberg

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