Wichita abortion doctor George Tiller
The chief suspect in the murder of Wichita abortion doctor George Tiller is said to have believed in “justifiable homicide,” allegedly suffered from mental illness and may have been convicted for criminal use of explosives while he was part of an extremist anti-government group.
Scott P. Roeder, 51, of Merriam, Kan., is accused of fatally shooting Tiller with a handgun while the late-term abortion doctor served as an usher at Reformation Lutheran Church in Wichita at 10 a.m. Sunday. Tiller’s wife and daughter were also in attendance at the service.
Wichita Deputy Police Chief Tom Stolz said the shooter threatened two people who attempted to stop him. Roeder was arrested three hours after the shooting in Kansas City. Police said they did not find a weapon in his possession.
According to ABC News, a man named Roeder was charged in 1996 with criminal use of explosives after police found bomb components in the trunk of his car. The conviction was subsequently overturned when an appeals court ruled that the materials were obtained during an illegal search of his vehicle.
In that case, the FBI said Roeder was a member of the Freemen group, an anti-government organization in Montana known for its 81-day standoff with the FBI in 1996. Some members of the group said they believed the government was illegal and has no power over citizens once they renounce citizenship. Officials have not confirmed whether the suspected gunman is the same man involved with that group.
In a statement issued to The Topeka Capital-Journal, Roeder’s brother, David, said the suspect had “suffered from mental illness at various times in his life.”
According to Life News, Roeder was not associated with the mainstream pro-life movement. Several pro-life organizations immediately condemned the murder of Tiller on Sunday.
“Operation Rescue has worked for years through peaceful, legal means, and through the proper channels to see him brought to justice,” Operation Rescue president Troy Newman told Life News. “We denounce vigilantism and the cowardly act that took place this morning.”
Likewise, representatives with Kansans for Life said they “deplored” the slaying and expressed sympathy for Tiller’s family and friends.
Father Frank Pavone, founder and director of Priests for Life, urged the public not to quickly point the finger at the pro-life community because it would never employ such tactics to oppose abortion.
Dr. James Dobson of Focus on the Family immediately issued a statement about Tiller’s slaying:
“We are shocked by the murder of George Tiller, and we categorically condemn the act of vigilantism and violence that took his life. … Our condolences are extended to the Tiller family. The person or persons responsible for his death should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
However, Vicki Saporta of the National Abortion Federation told the Guardian she blames the killing on abortion opponents who wish to restrict a woman’s “right to choose.”
“It is abhorrent that, once again, individuals who oppose the right to choose have used violence to try to advance their extreme anti-choice agenda,” Saporta said.
Roeder is charged with one count of homicide and two counts of aggravated assault. He is being held without bond in the Sedgwick County Adult Detention Facility.
His friends told The Kansas City Star that Roeder believed murdering abortion doctors was an act of justifiable homicide.
“I know that he believed in justifiable homicide,” said Regina Dinwiddie, a Kansas City abortion opponent. “I know he very strongly believed that abortion was murder and that you ought to defend the little ones, both born and unborn.”
According to reports, Roeder’s 1993 blue Ford Taurus had a red rose displayed in its rear window and a Christian fish with the word “Jesus” inside.
A person posting under the name Scott Roeder posted the following note to Operation Rescue’s website in 2007 in response to a prayer vigil to ask God to end Tiller’s late-term abortion business:
“Bleass [sic] everyone for attending and praying in May to bring justice to Tiller and the closing of his death camp. Sometime soon, would it be feasible to organise as many people as possible to attend Tillers [sic] church (inside, not just outside) to have much more of a presence and possibly ask questions of the Pastor, Deacons, Elders and members while there? Doesn’t seem like it would hurt anything but bring more attention to Tiller.”
Newman said Roeder may have posted to the blog, but he was never a member, contributor or volunteer with the organization.
Tiller was a controversial figure in the abortion debate, accused on 19 counts of illegally aborting viable babies in violation of a state law that requires a second physician – without legal or financial ties to the abortionist – sign off on the procedure once the unborn child reaches a state in which it could survive outside the womb.
He was also shot in both arms outside his Wichita clinic in 1993. The convicted shooter, a woman named Rachelle Shannon, is still serving time in prison.
President Obama condemned the shooting in a statement issued by the White House Sunday.
“I am shocked and outraged by the murder of Dr. George Tiller as he attended church services this morning,” Obama said. “However profound our differences as Americans over difficult issues such as abortion, they cannot be resolved by heinous acts of violence.”
“Bringing the killers to justice is not enough – the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security must root out and prosecute as domestic terrorists and violent racketeers the criminal enterprise that has organized and funded criminal acts for decades,” said the statement, attributed to NOW President Kim Gandy. “We call on the new attorney general, Eric Holder, and head of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano to treat these murders in the same way they would treat politically-motivated domestic terrorism of any other kind and put the full resources of their two departments behind that effort.”
According to a statement from the Department of Justice, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. ordered federal marshals to provide increased security for several abortion doctors and clinics after Tiller’s murder.
“The murder of Doctor George Tiller is an abhorrent act of violence, and his family is in our thoughts and prayers at this tragic moment,” it said. “Federal law enforcement is coordinating with local law enforcement officials in Kansas on the investigation of this crime, and I have directed the United States Marshals Service to offer protection to other appropriate people and facilities around the nation. The Department of Justice will work to bring the perpetrator of this crime to justice. As a precautionary measure, we will also take appropriate steps to help prevent any related acts of violence from occurring.”