Planned Parenthood shooting: A shocked community grieves and waits for answers


At first glance, it almost looks like a normal Saturday morning in Colorado Springs. The parking lot of the shopping center at Centennial Boulevard is filled with cars. You can imagine the customers picking up a few extra groceries from King Soopers as their Thanksgiving leftovers run out, then starting the holiday shopping early at Sally Beauty Supply next door.

Then you notice that the cars are covered in snow, abandoned in a hurry and left in the cold overnight. No shoppers, just news crews and policemen. The yellow caution tape stands out against the white snow and points the way back to the Planned Parenthood clinic, where a lone gunman opened fire on Friday, killing two civilians and one police officer and injuring many more.

“We are not open to the public until later today, we don’t know when. We’re just trying to get our associates into the store,” a mildly frantic salesperson at King Soopers says on the phone. Only hours earlier, more than 100 people were said to be bunkered down inside the grocery store, hiding from the gunshots.

Each of the other retail shops, along with the Planned Parenthood clinic, remain closed for now. Other Planned Parenthood locations in the region will be open, however, despite the threat.

“The committed professionals at @PPRockyMountain are providing care to patients today – in awe of their courage,” Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, tweeted on Saturday. “THESE DOORS STAY OPEN.”

“This is not normal,” President Obama said in a heartfelt and some might say politicized statement released early Saturday morning. “We can’t let it become normal.”

Throughout his presidency, Obama has been forced to issue more than a dozen public statements about mass shootings on U.S. soil. Each statement touches on the horror and heartbreak of the lives lost — and, increasingly, stressed the need to re-think our gun policies as these incidents do not happen in other countries.

But this marked the first time Obama had to give such a statement on Thanksgiving weekend.

“The last thing Americans should have to do, over the holidays or any day, is comfort the families of people killed by gun violence,” Obama said in his remarks, before concluding, “Enough is enough.”

As with many recent shooting incidents in the U.S., the politics of the situation set in quickly. Many on social media were quick to point out that the perpetrators of these domestic terrorism incidents are not refugees from the middle east, but born and bred Americans.

That does little to answer the only question that mattered to families in Colorado Springs on Saturday morning: why? Why here, and why now barely one day after an American holiday intended to bring families together, not take loved ones away.

The suspect, confirmed as Robert Lewis Dear, is a 57-year-old man said to hail from across the country in South Carolina. He has reportedly faced numerous criminal charges, including for animal cruelty and peeping on multiple women over the years, neither of which stuck to him in court.

Law enforcement has yet to uncover a motive behind the Planned Parenthood shooting. The mayor of Colorado Springs said people can infer a motive “from where it took place.”

“The information regarding the gunman’s motive remains unknown as does whether Planned Parenthood was targeted deliberately,” the organization wrote in a statement.

Later on Saturday, the Colorado Springs community will gather and mourn at two vigils throughout the day. The events are expected to draw hundreds and bring together religious and civic leaders, as well as Planned Parenthood supporters.

“We will be gathering to mourn those killed, to honor survivors and first responders, and all those impacted by the violence,” reads a Facebook event for one of the vigils, scheduled at the All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church. “And to stand strongly together in support of Planned Parenthood and in ending the violence.”

Join us tomorrow as we once again come face to face with tragedy in our community.

Posted by All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church (ASUUC) on Friday, November 27, 2015

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