Alleged Planned Parenthood shooter indicted by federal grand jury
After years of legal limbo, the case against the only suspect in the Planned Parenthood shooting is moving forward in federal court.
Questions about 61-year-old Robert Dear's competency stalled legal proceedings for the more than four years that have passed since the Nov. 27, 2015 shootings. With the clock ticking on the five-year statute of limitations for Dear's case, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Colorado moved to formally indict late last week. Monday, the office announced a grand jury had returned a 68-count indictment. Dear made his first appearance in federal court hours later.
Dear is accused of driving two hours from the town of Hartsel to the Planned Parenthood on Centennial Boulevard with the intention of "waging war" on the clinic. Once there, he allegedly shot at the people parked next to his truck and then forced his way into the clinic; for the next five hours, the accused allegedly traded fire with police while barricading himself inside the building. When the suspect was finally detained, an Iraq War veteran, a young mother from Hawaii, and a UCCS police officer were dead and nine others including four law enforcement officers were wounded. Authorities said the gunman fired 198 bullets during the attack and tried to cause an explosion with a propane tank he had hauled to the site.
Dear has openly confessed to the shootings from the start, stating in his
that he was "guilty," "a warrior for the babies," and eager for the "truth" to "all come out," among more than a dozen other outbursts.
He was equally outspoken Monday, telling the federal judge, "I am not crazy. I'm a religious zealot" and referring to the legal process he has been through for the last four years as a "political kangaroo court." He also maintained as he has since the beginning that he is not incompetent and wanted to represent himself.
The 4th Judicial District Attorney's Office said in a brief statement Monday that the federal case was separate from their case, and that Dear's competency would next be evaluated in January as scheduled.
"As one of the many responding agencies, the 4th Judicial District Attorney’s Office has worked closely with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Colorado since November 27, 2015,” said 4th Judicial District Attorney Dan May. “The indictment, which is fully supported by our office, is a culmination of those joint efforts, and we hope shall serve as notice that the victims in this case will never be forgotten. We want to thank U.S. Attorney’s Office for their diligent work.”
Planned Parenthood released a brief statement Monday in response to the indictment.
"Despite the passage of time, the memories of Nov. 27, 2015 remain all too fresh for many of us, and our hearts go out to all whose lives were forever changed by the actions of the gunman. We look forward to the day when we can all have an element of closure and until then we continue to come together as an organization to recover and to thrive."
If convicted in federal court, Dear could face the death penalty, but a decision has not been made whether to pursue it.
Dear will next appear in federal court Friday morning. He will remain in federal custody until then; he has been in the state hospital in Pueblo for the last several years.
Q&A Regarding Robert Dear Prosecution (Source: U.S. Attorney's Office)
Q: Why are the charges being filed now?
A: Given that the incident happened over four years ago, that the state case has failed to advance, the applicable five-year statute of limitations under the FACE Act, and in consideration of the views of both the 4th Judicial District Attorney and victims, the decision was made to file charges now.
Q: Why has this case not yet gone to trial at the state level?
A: Since May of 2016, Dear has been deemed incompetent by the state district court in El Paso County to decide whether he can represent himself, as he has requested.
Q: Where will Dear be held in federal custody?
A: Assuming that he is detained following his detention hearing, the U.S. Marshals will make that determination.
Q: Where was Dear being held prior to this?
A: He was being held at the Colorado Mental Health Institute at Pueblo.
Q: How was he transferred into federal custody?
A: Federal agents took custody of Dear at the CMHIP on Dec. 9 and drove him to Denver, where he appeared in federal court.
Q: Why do the charges not include homicide, as was charged by the state?
A: Federal law does not have an applicable homicide offense.
Q: When were the victims informed that the DOJ was taking over the case?
A: They were told after Dear was arrested and before he made his initial appearance. A victim’s advocate in the USA’s office is in touch with them.
Q: What is happening to the state charges?
A: The state charges remain pending.