News

Actions

3 dead in attack at Colo. Planned Parenthood

WCPO-Default-Image_1280x720.png
Posted at 3:09 AM, Nov 28, 2015
and last updated 2015-11-28 03:09:10-05

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Three people, including a university police officer, were shot and killed during an attack at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood clinic Friday, law enforcement officials said.

Nine others were wounded -- five Colorado Springs police officers and four civilians. All were in good condition.

The officer killed, Garrett Swasey, 44, was a six-year veteran of the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs Police Department, a statement from University Chancellor Pam Shockley-Zalabak said.

"UCCS is working with Officer Swasey’s family and continues to support the Colorado Springs Police Department at the shooting scene," Shockley-Zalabak wrote.

Swasey was married and had a son and daughter, according to the website of his church, Hope Chapel in Colorado Springs.

No other information was immediately available about the two civilians killed in the attack.

The gunman, identified as Robert Lewis Dear of North Carolina, was taken into custody after police convinced him to surrender.

Authorities were expected to spend several hours investigating unspecified items the gunman left outside the building or carried inside, Colorado Springs Police spokesperson Lt. Catherine Buckley said.

Several people were evacuated during the standoff -- some wrapped in blankets in the blowing snow -- to a nearby Veterans Administration clinic.

Hostages are escorted to an ambulance. Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

Three officers were injured while responding to the initial report of shots fired at the clinic before noon, authorities said. More than two hours later, the gunman shot and injured a fourth officer in another exchange with police inside the clinic, Buckley said.

Authorities said they don't know the motive of the gunman or whether the shooter had any connection to Planned Parenthood. The name of the suspect was not released.

"We don't have any information on this individual's mentality, or his ideas or ideology," Buckley said.

Planned Parenthood released a statement that said it did not know the full circumstances or motives behind the attack, or whether the organization was the target.

The shots sent people inside the clinic racing for cover. Jennifer Motolinia hid behind a table inside the clinic and called her brother, Joan, who said he heard multiple gunshots in the background.

"She was telling me to take care of her babies because she could get killed," Joan Motolinia said of his sister, the mother of three.

He rushed to the clinic but was frustrated because a police barricade kept him from getting close.

"People were shooting for sure. I heard someone shooting. There was a lot of gunfire. She was calm, she was trying to hide from those people," he said.

Police cordoned off the clinic, nearby medical offices and a shopping center. Authorities ordered everyone in the area to take shelter where they were.

Denise Speller, manager of a nearby hair salon, said she heard as many as 20 gunshots in less than five minutes.

A woman is escorted from a police utility vehicle after being rescued. Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

She told The Gazette newspaper that she saw a police cruiser and two officers near a Chase Bank branch, not far from the Planned Parenthood facility.

One of the officers appeared to fall to the ground and the other officer knelt down to help and then tried to get the officer to safety behind the car, she said. Another officer told Speller to seek shelter inside the building.

"We're still pretty freaked out," Speller said by phone. "We can't stop shaking."

Ambulances and police vehicles lined up at a nearby intersection and police told people via Twitter to stay away from the shooting scene because it was not secure.

Shelley Satulla said she saw five or six people put on stretchers and placed in ambulances lined up next to King Soopers shopping center near the clinic.

Later in the afternoon, other people were able to walk out of the shopping center area accompanied by police officers toward a line of ambulances.

Mike Pelosi, who works at a deli at a nearby King Sooper grocery store, said he heard over the store's loudspeaker just before noon that nobody could leave the store.

Colorado Springs Police spokesperson Lt. Catherine Buckley addresses the media. Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

Pelosi said customers and store employees were confused about what was going on but not panicked. He said a couple dozen customers were standing near the store entrance waiting for instructions.

The location of the shooting is less than 6 miles from the street where a man shot and killed two of three people before dying in a gun battle with police on Halloween day.

---

Associated Press reporters Kristen Wyatt in Colorado Springs, Alina Hartounian in Phoenix and Colleen Slevin, Dan Elliott and Thomas Peipert in Denver contributed to this report.