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Crime and Courts

Suspected gunman in 2015 Planned Parenthood shooting federally indicted after four years of stalled state case

Colorado's U.S. Attorney's Office announced the 68-count indictment on Monday. Robert Lewis Dear Jr. could face the death penalty in the case.

In this Nov. 27, 2015 file photo, emergency personnel transport an officer to an ambulance after reports of a shooting at the Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs. (Daniel Owen/The Gazette via AP, File)
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A federal grand jury has indicted Robert Lewis Dear Jr., suspected of killing three people and wounding nine others at the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood clinic in 2015.

Colorado’s U.S. Attorney’s Office announced the 68-count indictment on Monday, which comes after four years of stalled proceedings in the state case against him. Dear could face the death penalty on the federal charges.

“The dozens of victims of this heinous act, as well as the Colorado Springs community itself, deserve justice,” Colorado U.S. Attorney Jason Dunn said in a written statement.  “After four years of lengthy delays in state court, and in consultation with the 4th Judicial District Attorney and victims, this office made the decision to charge Mr. Dear.”

MORE: These employees survived the Planned Parenthood shooting. They say the organization could have done more to help them.

Dear is accused of opening fire on the clinic on Nov. 27, 2015, the day after Thanksgiving. In courtroom outbursts and in interviews with the news media he has admitted to carrying out the attack.

The 13-page federal indictment alleges that Dear, armed with a dozen firearms and more than 500 bullets, intended to wage war against Planned Parenthood because it offers abortion services.

The state case against Dear, 61, being prosecuted by the 4th Judicial District Attorney’s Office in El Paso County, will continue despite the federal indictment. Those proceedings have been stalled since May 2016, when a judge first ruled that he is not mentally competent to stand trial and thus unable to understand the case against him and participate in his own defense. 

That ruling has been revisited every 90 days since and has been continued each time. Victims have expressed frustration at the lack of progress in the state case, saying it serves as a constant, stressful reminder of the attack. 

“I saw him holding the gun and pointing it at us,” Cristina Jiminez, the clinic’s then-assistant manager, told The Colorado Sun recently. “Robert Dear even said, ‘Yes, I did it.’ He’s getting three meals a day. He’s in a warm place when its cold. He’s in a cold place when it’s warm. It makes me wonder: Are all the victims in the same place he is?”

Dr. James Boyd, the only doctor at the clinic on the day of the attack, said in an interview that he was optimistic the federal case would move things along. “I’m hopeful this will change the momentum and get him out of the state system.”

Fourth Judicial District Attorney Dan May said in a written statement that he supports the federal action.

“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,” May said in a written statement. “We want to thank U.S. Attorney’s Office for their diligent work.”

Federal prosecutors say Dear fired nearly 200 bullets during the attack and also placed a propane tank in the parking lot outside the clinic and tried to detonate it when law enforcement approached the building. The attack lasted about five hours as Dear traded gunfire with police while people trapped in the clinic hid, thinking they were going to be killed.

Robert Lewis Dear Jr., suspected of attacking a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs in 2015, was federally indicted. (Provided by Colorado Springs police)

The three people killed in the attack were University of Colorado Colorado Springs police Officer Garrett Swasey, 44; Ke’Arre M. Stewart, 29; and Jennifer Markovsky, 35.

Dunn’s office said it has not decided whether to seek capital punishment in the case. Dear is due in federal court in Denver on Monday afternoon.

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