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Suspect In Colorado Planned Parenthood Shooting Appears In Court


The man accused of a mass shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic on Friday appeared for the first time in court today. Police say Robert Dear opened fire and killed three people and wounded nine others. Ben Markus of Colorado Public Radio was in court in Colorado Springs and joins me now. And Ben, tell us first what happened in court today, and how did the suspect appear to you?

BEN MARKUS, BYLINE: It was a quick appearance. Robert Dear was advised that he's been initially charged with first-degree murder and that formal charges will be brought next Wednesday. He appeared via a video link in the courthouse. He was flanked by his public defender, Dan King, and he was informed - does he understand the charges, or does he understand in the initial charge, and does he understand his rights? And he did say yes. He appeared dazed. He was wearing a vest. And he was slurring his speech a little bit as well.

SIEGEL: He was physically in jail for this appearance by - via video?

MARKUS: Yes, yes.

SIEGEL: This is all about the state charges that are going to be brought against Mr. Dear. There's also talk of federal charges being brought against him.

MARKUS: That's right. There's a couple of things going on here. One, there's a federal law that he can be charged under that protects access to abortion clinics. And two, he's been labeled by many, including the mayor of Colorado Springs, as a domestic terrorist. However, that mayor, John Suthers, who used to be Colorado's attorney general, indicated that that was unlikely, that this would probably be handled locally.

SIEGEL: The police have not released a lot of information about the shooting. What do we know so far about what happened on Friday?

MARKUS: We don't know much. The judges sealed the arrest and search warrants. The police are pretty tightlipped about any kind of motive. He lived a pretty lonely lifestyle, this Robert Dear, and so we don't know much about him or what his motives are at this point.

SIEGEL: When you say people don't know much about his motives, is part of the question, did he - was he connected in any way to any person who had anything to do with that particular Planned Parenthood clinic, for example? We don't even know that much.

MARKUS: We don't. He lived about an hour-and-a-half west, in a rural mountain town, from Colorado Springs. It's not clear if he had any particular connection to that clinic.

SIEGEL: What's next for him? What's next for Robert Dear?

MARKUS: So on Friday, he'll be formally charged. After that, he will have the opportunity to have a preliminary hearing or not. And long-term, the prosecution is have - going to have to decide whether or not to pursue the death penalty in this case.

SIEGEL: How would you describe the reactions there to this case in Colorado Springs?

MARKUS: It seems like - the people that I've talked to around Colorado Springs feel a little beat up. This is the second shooting - high-profile shooting in the city within a month. In the last few years, they've endured, you know, horrific wildfires and floods. They're in the headlines for all the wrong reasons lately.

SIEGEL: And I would assume that the headlines in Colorado Springs are dominated by what happened last Friday these days.

MARKUS: Absolutely.

SIEGEL: The clinic in question is closed now. Were the other Planned Parenthood clinics in Colorado open today?

MARKUS: The other Planned Parenthood clinics are open. This clinic isn't expected to open, obviously, for a while. There is a lot of construction that needs to be done to fix, especially the front-end of, the clinic. But there are clinics around the state that are still open.

SIEGEL: OK. Ben Markus of Colorado Public Radio in Colorado Springs, thanks for talking with us.

MARKUS: Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ben Markus