The gulf between facts and conjecture over Colorado shooter Robert Lewis Dear is growing increasingly large by the second. Words like “pro-life activist,” “terrorist,” and “right-winger” are being used, and all of them are based on supposition and conjecture.
The facts we know:
- Robert Lewis Dear has had numerous run-ins with the law and has lived almost entirely off the grid.
- Dear shot 12 people, 3 of whom have died.
- The shootings took place while he barricaded himself inside a Planned Parenthood office.
- The police have not determined any motive nor if the Planned Parenthood clinic was a target.
Yet the Mayor of Colorado Springs, in an interview with ABC, said that the shooting “certainly appears” to be domestic terrorism despite also acknowledging that he was active under “whatever motivation.”
Republican Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee said something similar:
“What he did is domestic terrorism, and what he did is absolutely abominable, especially to us in the pro-life movement, because there's nothing about any of us that would condone or in any way look the other way on something like this.”
Here is the FBI's definition of domestic terrorism:
“Domestic terrorism” means activities with the following three characteristics: Involve acts dangerous to human life that violate federal or state law; Appear intended (i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination. or kidnapping; and Occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the U.S.
Certainly Dear violated laws by committing felonious and violent acts, but at this point there isn't evidence of any political or broader agenda.
The CEO of Planned Parenthood Rocky Mountains, Vicki Cowart, connected the shootings with pro-life activism:
"We’ve seen that across the country from all sorts of speakers in the last few months. I can’t believe that this isn’t contributing to some folks, mentally unwell or not, thinking that it’s OK to — to target Planned Parenthood or to target abortion providers.
The airwaves are full of anti-abortion language, of anti-Planned Parenthood accusations, much of which is false in nature."
A pro-choice doctor published an editorial in Slate that was titled “Anti-Abortion Terrorism Must Be Stopped.” Echoing the sentiments expressed by the Planned Parenthood executive, the article opens with this:
Domestic terrorism remains unchecked, even on the day after Thanksgiving. To label this an isolated act of violence would be naïve.
The article then goes on to give a historical summary of various actions taken against Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers since Roe V. Wade was passed. The connection to the Colorado Springs shootings is conjecture and supposition.
The Colorado Springs Police Department has publicly warned about speculating on motive and reminded that they are the only source of official information relating to the investigation:
It could turn out that evidence will be obtained that would allow an accurate determination of pro-life related domestic terrorism. It could also be nothing of the sort. Accusations and anecdotes may allow interesting sound bites and conversations, but they aren't facts and only serve to create conflict and confusion.