[CN: This post includes descriptions of gun violence, disableism, domestic violence, anti-agency rhetoric, stalking, interpersonal violence, and cruelty to animals. Linked material may not be safe.]
As of 3 PM ET (11 AM Colorado time), here is what I can glean about the Planned Parenthood shooting on Friday. Please feel free to leave image-free, properly content-noted updates in comments. (For background, please see Friday's post here, and also Saturday's post here.)
Officer Garrett Swasey was remembered at his church this morning. His widow Rachel Swasey has issued a statement on behalf of the Swasey family memorializing her husband and asking for privacy so she and their two children may mourn. (The linked statement also includes a link to an education fund for the children, for those who wish to contribute.
The other two deceased victims have yet to be named, although the governor of Colorado, John Hickenlooper, says they were a man and a woman. According to the Colorado Springs Gazette, autopsies are scheduled for the two civilian victims on Monday.
Their identities will be released after that. (ETA: Their identities have been released; see updates below.) (The linked article also contains information about a Community Crisis Recovery Centre opening in Colorado Springs today in order to assist those directly affected by Friday's events.)
There were two vigils for the victims Saturday, one at the University of Colorado CS chapel, and another vigil at All Soul's Unitarian Universalist Church. The Reverend Nori rost clearly spoke of the perpetrator as a "terrorist," and most speakers urged the need to protect reproductive rights and address gun control. When an unnamed mourner objected to the political nature of these statements, Nori responded:
“the announcement for the vigil said it was to come together to grieve our losses and to stand with Planned Parenthood.
“This was a devastating loss for them, and we wanted to show our support. The announcement was very clear.”
This unconscionable attack was not only a crime against the Colorado Springs community, but a crime against women receiving healthcare services at Planned Parenthood, law enforcement seeking to protect and serve, and other innocent people. It was also an assault on the rule of law, and an attack on all Americans' right to safety and security. Justice Department attorneys, the FBI, and the ATF are on the scene to offer assistance and review the situation.
“We stand ready to offer any and all assistance to the District Attorney and state and local law enforcement as they move forward with their investigation. And in the days ahead, our thoughts and prayers will be with the victims of this horrific attack – including Officer Garrett Swasey, who gave his life in order to keep others safe. We wish a speedy recovery for those who were injured, and peace and strength for the loved ones of the fallen.”
As for the suspect Robert Lewis Dear, Eyewitness accounts confirm he made anti-abortion statements, apparently including "no more baby parts." Yet infuriatingly few media sources are willing to label his motivations as anti-choice, and of course no one is spinning faster than the GOP. I'm not going to link to disgusting comments made by Carly Fiorina and Mike Huckabee about this. To sum: garbage.
And the more details of Dear's life roll in, the more the picture of an abusive asshole with no respect for boundaries, heavily into anti-government rhetoric, becomes clear. One of his former neighbors describes Dear advising that he put a metal roof on his house to foil government spying. Other neighbors believe he abused his dog. He handed out anti-Obama pamphlets to a Colorado neighbor. Neighbors near his North Carolina shack say they kept their kids inside when he came to stay. He made unwanted sexual advances to a female neighbor, spied on her, and was the subject of a restraining order. His ex-wife reported him in a DV incident. As he rode his trail bike in the area, he would try to provoke local dogs with a stick. His own dogs were neglected and aggressive. He was so scary that most spoke on a condition of anonymity. Another former neighbor in North Carolina described Dear repeatedly following him after the neighbor had reported him for animal cruelty, as part of a "scare campaign." Police records from South Carolina include accounts of Dear threatening a neighbor with bodily harm and allegedly shooting a pellet gun at said neighbor's dog.
Not all information is negative. According to his ex-wife, Dear held a degree in public administration, was artistically inclined, and made a living by selling prints of arts with Southern themes: scenes of Savannah, the Augusta Master's, and the like. She describes him as a good father. As for his religious convictions, Dear's former wife says he was raised Baptist, had read the Bible thoroughly and said he believed in it, but was not a regular churchgoer. (He was, she says, generally "conservative." The New York Times has done some investigation into his online life . He sought out sexual partners on a BDSM message board and smoking companions on marijuana-related message boards; on the latter he wrote in December 2005: “AIDS, hurricanes, we are in the end times. Accept the LORD JESUS while you can." (To me that suggests a definite apocalyptic bent to his religious outlook, at least as it stood in 2005.)
The fact that Dear's ex-wife has some positive things to say about him and a few of his Colorado neighbors found him unremarkable, while others found him scary and intimidating, should not surprise anyone who has close-up experience with an abusive person. They are human beings, capable of immense charm in many cases, and of good persuasive power in others. At one time, at least, it sounds as if Dear managed to get some reasonable economic success, persuading artists to let him buy the rights to their works and then selling prints. Yet he also demonstrated aggression and threat at other times. That fits the pattern of being something other than a one-dimensional monster. Despite the attempts to define Dear as a Lone Wolf and "crazy," without any relation to politics, what we know of his political and religious statements is that they are extreme versions of the anti-government, apocalyptic rhetoric that are quite common on right wing talk shows, blogs, and the like. Increasingly, they are given further credibility as they are echoed by various GOP party figures, including many of the 2016 Republican presidential candidates. Combine that with his very clear personal patterns of ignoring boundaries, of intimidation and physical threats, his domestic violence , stalking, and sexual harassment, then throw easily available weapons into the mix, and his actions in Colorado Springs seem all too predictable in general, even if his specific target was unknowable.
Update #1: The identity of one of the civilian victims has been released. He was Ke'Arre M. Stewart. He leaves behind a wife and children. According to his sister, he was outside the building trying to get cell service, and was shot outside. He still managed to make his way inside the building and warn others before calling 911, according to her account. He was an army veteran who had served in Iraq. A GoFundMePage has been set up to help assist his family with funeral expenses, including taking his remains back to his native Texas. I note this is not connected to any official family statement, unlike the page for Officer Swasey's family, so I can't guarantee it. If anyone can find verifying information for this link, I would be very grateful.
Update #2: The identity of the second civilian victim has also been released. Jennifer Markovsky was at Planned Parenthood supporting a friend. She graduated from high school in Hawa'ii, where she leaves family members, including her father. She also leaves behind a husband and two children. I have no information about financial assistance for her family at this time.
Update #3: The website The Heavy has explored more of Dear's online life. His postings at Cannabis.com are persistently religious; his religious views also overlap with his anti-government views:
Dear first posted about religion on October 3, 2005, when he replied to a thread titled, “Jesus was a fraud.” He wrote, “u wont like hell , jesus is the only hope. satan has blinded u little demon.” On October 7, he wrote, “turn to Jesus or burn in hell. Wake up sinners u cant save yourself u will die an worms shall eat your flesh, now your soul is going somewhere.” He also posted several times in the next few weeks different variations of “Every knee shall bow an tongue confess Jesus is lord in this world or the next.” Dear wrote that “herb” was created by God, so man’s laws against the drug are against God.
Other posts reveal his explicitly anti-feminist views:
He also ranted against women, posting, “god made the woman out of the mans side sorry but womans lib cant change it.
Update # 4: The media discussion of this event is quite amazing. Not in a good way. As Liss points out:
The suspect talked about "politics and abortions," but motive "remains unclear." I'm going to go out on a limb and say "politics and abortion," maybe even the "politics OF abortion," were motivating factors. You read it here first.
As ever, please take care to keep the comments a safe space.