Gunman In Standoff At Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood Clinic, Motive Unclear. Update: Shooter Now In Custody

A gunman is holed up in a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs after shooting multiple people, but it's unclear what if any motive may be involved in the shooting.

Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood Shooting

A gunman is involved in a standoff inside a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, Colorado after having shot at least eight people, including up to four police officers, and may be holding hostages in what is currently still described as an active shooter situation:

COLORADO SPRINGS — A gunman inside a Planned Parenthood center here was exchanging gunfire with the police, the authorities said on Friday, after an hours long shooting spree that left at least eight people injured including four officers. People in the surrounding buildings, including the clinic, were told to shelter in place.

Lt. Catherine Buckley, a police spokeswoman, said during a news conference that the police were exchanging shots with the gunman, who was barricaded in a windowless office. He was described as white man in a trench coat with an assault rifle.

The encounter could be heard on the police scanner.

“We’re exchanging gunfire,” one officer said on the radio, “We are trying to keep him pinned down.”

“Put gunfire through the walls,” came a reply. “Whatever, we got to stop this guy.”

Near the Planned Parenthood center, about 10 ambulances were lined up.

“We’re not sure of what the connection is to Planned Parenthood,” but that was the original address received, Lieutenant Buckley said during the news conference.

Two hospitals said they had received a total of six patients, though their conditions were unknown.

Denise Speller, a manager at a Supercuts salon near the shooting scene, said she saw police cars screaming through the small shopping center and pull up by a nearby Chase bank as gunshots echoed across the parking lot. She said she saw one officer positioned by his cruiser apparently struck by a bullet.

“We just saw him go down,” Ms. Speller said in a telephone interview.

Security concerns at the clinic were high enough that the clinic had a “security room” with a supply of bulletproof vests, but, according to an officer on the scanner, some of the vests are still in the room, and one may have been worn by the gunman.

With people sheltering inside the clinic and area restaurants and stores, the police ordered residents to stay away from Centennial Boulevard and were checking on the safety of those in the area. “We have put officers and detectives in the different businesses at this point.” Lieutenant Buckley said.

When this story initially broke, the reports stated that there had been shots fired “near” the clinic and that police arived there because that is where the initial 911 call had come from. Quite inevitably, this led various people on both sides of the political aisle to take to social media to skim initial reports to try to find things to confirm or deny the implication that this may or may not be someone targeting the clinic itself, but we still seem to be at the point where that is not entirely clear. Some initial reports from witnesses who called in to CNN and MSNBC seem to indicate that initial shots were fired at or near a bank that is located in the same general area as the clinic, which would suggest that the clinic may not have been the target but rather a convenient location that the shooter ran to when it became necessary to seek shelter when police arrived. Other reports claimed to indicate that the initial shots did in fact come from an area close to, or directed at the clinic. Given the nature of eyewitness testimony, it’s best not to jump to conclusions based on what people who are still being told to shelter in place are saying, and the fact that echoes and other phenomenon make it difficult for people without a line of sight to reach any conclusion about where gunshots originated from, though, it’s worth taking any of these reports with a grain of salt.

However the standoff started, though, it is clear that it has ended up at the clinic. A reporter for the CBS affiliate in Denver conveyed to me on Twitter that police had confirmed that the shooter was inside the clinic, but that it was unclear what their motive might be:

Although its worth noting that there was this report from the same reporter that the incident started as a report of shots fired from inside the clinic:

The Denver Post has more:

COLORADO SPRINGS —At least four police officers have been shot and multiple civilians have been injured in an ongoing active shooter situation at a Colorado Springs branch of Planned Parenthood on Friday afternoon. “This is still a very active situation,” Colorado Springs Police Lt. Catherine Buckley said. By 3:19 p.m., six people injured in the incident had been transported to Penrose Hospital in Colorado Springs, according to a hospital spokeswoman. The spokeswoman did not know the patients’ condition or whether they were police officers or civilians. Three more victims were taken to Memorial Hospital, according to a spokesman there. A SWAT truck was seen evacuating people from the clinic. In one run, first responders unloaded an apparently injured person onto a gurney. In another run, people wrapped in blankets and others wearing hospital scrubs climbed out of the truck and into waiting patrol cars, which then drove away from the scene. A line of more than a dozen ambulances waited at the scene. At 2:15, the police department reported on Twitter that officers were “encountering gunfire” from a suspect inside the Planned Parenthood building. The gunman has not made any demands or made any statements to officers, Buckley said. She said initial reports described his weapon as a long gun, such as a rifle. “We do not know about this person’s mentality or ideology,” Buckley said. Buckley said the first call for service came at 11:38 a.m. and came from the Planned Parenthood address. The branch is located at 3480 Centennial Blvd., just north of West Fillmore Street. Joan Motolinia said his sister is in the clinic, and he talked to her by phone about 1:30 p.m. She was at the clinic for an appointment and was hiding under a table and was only able to talk briefly. “She was very afraid,” he said. While she was talking, he could hear gunfire in the background and after about two minutes, his sister hung up on him. “She was telling me to take care of her babies,” he said. “I heard some shots so people were in there shooting for sure.” At a news conference at about 1:30 on Friday afternoon, Buckley said police cannot confirm where the shooter is located and said the situation is “very active.” She said officers didn’t yet know for sure whether there was a single shooter or multiple gunmen. She said police have “brought all of our resources to bear” to the situation. Earlier, Colorado Springs police Commander Kirk Wilson told media at the scene that police were having trouble getting officers to the shooting area. “We haven’t been able to get in the scene yet,” he said. Cathy Alderman, vice president of public affairs for Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, said the situation was fluid and the organization had little information to go on. “We’re monitoring the situation live like everyone else,” she said. “Obviously the safety of our patients and staff is our greatest concern. We’re hoping for the best.”

Additionally, the website of the Colorado Springs Gazette is posting live updates on the situation as news becomes available as well as livestreaming of local news coverage. As I note above, one thing that is unclear is whether there are any people left inside the clinic other than the gunman and the police at this point. There has been some discussion online and on the news coverage about possible hostages, but the police have not confirmed that at this point and any such discussion about that would be pure speculation. In any case, the situation does not appear to be over yet. So, updates as warranted. Update: The Public Information Officer for the Colorado Springs Police Department just completed a press briefing that seems to clear up some matters, but still leaves much unexplained. Right off the top, she told reporters that the entire incident started with shooting at the Planned Parenthood facility, which is in its own standalone building in a larger area that includes other medical office buildings and a strip mall. This would appear to discount earlier reports that the shooting may have started at or near a Chase Bank branch nearby the clinic, and it would lead to the obvious inference that the clinic may have been specifically targeted. She also stated that the gunman had brought “items” with him into the building that police will need to examine even after the standoff ends, with the obvious though unstated concern that they may be some kind of explosive device. Beyond that, though, there weren’t many more details provided. Apparently, police are not in direct contact with the gunman, and it’s still unclear if he’s holding any hostages at the moment. Additionally, the police are apparently still exchanging fire with the gunman inside the clinic. From the tenor of her comments, it appears the police are settling in for a long standoff, which may end up being made longer by virtue of the fact that there is a snowstorm in the area that appeared from the coverage on CNN to be getting worse as she spoke. Update #2: it is now being reported by multiple media sources that the gunman has been captured alive:

Update 11/28/2015: Late yesterday, police confirmed that three people died in the attack, including University of Colorado at Colorado Springs Police Office Garrett Sawsey and two civilians who have yet to be identified. The shooter has been identified as 59 year-old Robert Lewis Dear of North Carolina.

Photo via Associated Press 

FILED UNDER: Crime, Law and the Courts, Policing, , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Lit3Bolt says:

    Whatever you do, don’t say “terrorism” because he might be just mentally ill and white.

  2. OzarkHillbilly says:

    it appears the police are settling in for a long standoff

    Obviously a white man.

    All snark aside, and people are worried about ISIL? Really?? Oh, wait a minute, you’re a man, not like you’ll ever go to a Planned Parenthood clinic for an abortion or birth control or a breast exam, or a pap smear, will you?

  3. Stan says:

    I’d like to see a comparison of the number of people killed or injured in this country by immigrants from the Mideast with the number killed or injured by white native born Americans with guns and grievances.

  4. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @Stan: No, you probably wouldn’t actually (or need to either), but it wouldn’t convince the people you are arguing with even if you did see the statistics.

  5. WR says:

    I eagerly await Mike Huckabee calling him a political prisoner and Ted Cruz saying that he’s being persecuted because he’s Christian.

  6. ernieyeball says:

    @Lit3Bolt:..don’t say “terrorism”…

    Too late. Just saw a TV news reporter live streaming on the internet as she said: “He has been terrorizing our community all afternoon.”

  7. Liberal Capoitalist says:

    Just a quick comment from Colorado…

    Keep in mind that Colorado Springs is the heart of the red of Colorado.

    It’s the Florida of Colorado.

  8. Franklin says:

    I call shenanigans. The second paragraph of the article says he had an assault rifle, but I know there’s no such thing.

  9. Matt says:

    Oh I’m sure there’s not motive at all…..

  10. Lit3Bolt says:

    Negotiated with? Captured alive?

    Well now we definitely know his race.

  11. Matt says:

    @Lit3Bolt: PFFFT I had it called when I heard Planned Parenthood…

    All the capturing alive part did was confirm it. Can’t wait for his manifesto to come out…

  12. Gustopher says:

    When will the Republican candidates describe this as terrorism, and state that we are fighting fundamentalist Christians?

  13. C. Clavin says:

    Time to put all white men in internment camps.
    How long before Michael Reynolds wants to nuke white men off the face of the earth?

  14. Guarneri says:

    What a nice, if predictable, string of inane comments.

  15. Mu says:

    Most disgusting was seeing the right wing, including Doug’s radio partner, discounting all day it might have been an attack against PP. Probably afraid Obama would use “radical christian terrorist”.

  16. steve says:

    Odd that they fail to note that this is the 5th assault on a PP site since July.


  17. Ron Beasley says:

    Since Mr Dear is a white Christian and not a black or Muslim he will be labeled as a man with mental problems not a terrorist. Some on the right are already calling him a hero. If Mr Dear had been black or a brown skinned Muslim he would have been riddled with bullets even as he surrendered. This is what the US has become.

  18. Argon says:

    Even if the guy didn’t shoot up the place for religious terrorism, he probably should claim he did. That way he could achieve martyr status and get monetary support for his defense from the militant, anti-abortion Christians for doing “God’s work” or something stupid like that.

  19. JKB says:

    two civilians who have yet to be identified

    I believe you mean private citizens or non-law enforcement as all those killed were civilians.

    As for the shooter. He identifies as a woman, at least in his CO voting registration. So fitting him into your favored narrative may require a lot of tucking and snipping. He may simply have gone over the edge after being denied service as a woman?

  20. Lit3Bolt says:


    When oh when will conservatives claim responsibility for conservative terrorists?

    Why can’t we just take the bastards out?

    The only things these animals understand is force.

    The officers were afraid for their safety.

    Let’s nuke Elohim City. Only then can we win this war.

    …oh wait, this crazy guy got different treatment. Because he was CONSERVATIVE. He had VALUES. His beliefs MATTER.

  21. Davebo says:


    Hilarious! It’s like there’s nothing you won’t toss out regardless of how idiotic it makes you look!

    You sir, are a true patriot!

  22. ernieyeball says:

    @Stan:..Americans with guns and grievances.

    Be sure to add this goon to that list.

    Waitress fatally shot by man who refused to put out cigarette.

  23. bookdragon says:

    @JKB: I’ve seen that ‘he identified as female on CO voter registration’ several places now. I’m not sure what branch of wingnut news services you picked it up from, but the shooter is reported as being a resident of NC, so if someone with the same name has a voter registration filed in CO, it’s not him.

  24. charon says:


    GOP likjely reaction

    @bookdragon: @JKB: From his pictures he looks like he could be relative of the Duck Dynasty guys, not very feminine looking. Not someone who would be expect to be treated as a woman.

  25. C. Clavin says:

    @bookdragon: and she’s got a full beard

  26. Dave D says:

    @JKB: It sure sounds like “she” was upset about being denied services jackass.

    But the sources stressed that Dear said many things to law enforcement and the extent to which the “baby parts” remark played into any decision to target the Planned Parenthood office was not yet clear. He also mentioned President Barack Obama in statements.

  27. Jenos Idanian says:

    It turns out that the shooter was not only a staunch pro-lifer, but also a co-pastor in his church. So we know where his leanings were. My prayers go out to the Planned Parenthood staffers and patients who were killed or injured.

    Whoops… thank heavens for the 24 hour rule. That description didn’t apply to the shooter, but to Garrett Swasey, the college cop who rushed to the scene, and died trying to stop the shooting. And oddly enough, not a single Planned Parenthood staffer or patient was shot.

  28. CB says:

    @Jenos Idanian:

    And your point is…

  29. KM says:


    It turns out that the shooter was not only a staunch pro-lifer, but also a co-pastor in his church.

    Garrett Swasey, the dead officer was, not the shooter. Jesus Jenos, can you have some shame, please? Must you drag the name of the victims into the mud in order to perpetuate lies?

  30. Jenos Idanian says:

    @KM: It’s called “sarcasm,” you moron. Did you even read my full comment before you hit reply? I hope so, because that’s the only excuse for not noticing that I corrected myself in the second paragraph.

    But just in case you weren’t hasty and are actually that stupid, I’ll spell it out: in the first paragraph I played to the stereotypes the usual gang of idiots here assign to right-wingers at every excuse they can find or fabricate. Then, in the second, I threw those lazy-thinking myths back in their faces by pointing out how, in this case (as in so many other cases), they were wrong.

    There was a proud Christian and stalwart pro-lifer in this incident — but it was the heroic cop who tried to stop the shooting. And isn’t it strange that if this was an attack on Planned Parenthood, not a single patient or employee was injured?

    Well, at this point, that is the case. The identities of two of the deceased and several of the wounded haven’t been released. But the fact that Planned Parenthood hasn’t declared that any of its people were among the dead or wounded is indicative that none were killed or injured.

    This is still very recent, and more facts will come out. Things could change. But at this point, it’s odd.

  31. anjin-san says:

    @Jenos Idanian:

    It’s called “sarcasm,”

    No, it’s just drivel.

  32. Mikey says:

    @Jenos Idanian:

    There was a proud Christian and stalwart pro-lifer in this incident — but it was the heroic cop who tried to stop the shooting.

    That’s really quite irrelevant. He was doing his job–bravely, honorably, and eventually ultimately. But his religious beliefs and pro-life stance are utterly irrelevant. I have no doubt the fact he was responding to a Planned Parenthood location was the last thing on his mind.

    And isn’t it strange that if this was an attack on Planned Parenthood, not a single patient or employee was injured?

    Are you trying to spread some conspiracy theory horseshit or something? Like this asshole wasn’t “really” targeting Planned Parenthood? Despite the fact when he was taken into custody he was talking about “baby parts?”

  33. Mikey says:

    @Jenos Idanian: And since you’re wondering why no staff or patients were wounded or killed, it’s because Planned Parenthood locations have training for such events. From a news report:

    …the waiting room at the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood clinic was bustling at midday Friday when a shot rang out. A medical assistant immediately recognized the sound and moved everyone to the back of the building, behind a locked door that separates the lobby from exam rooms…Once there, everyone scattered into rooms that also had locks and, following their training, turned their phones to silent to avoid drawing attention to themselves. Most of the people in the clinic waited out the five-hour ordeal in these locked rooms…

    ‘No more baby parts,’ suspect in attack at Colo. Planned Parenthood clinic told official

  34. anjin-san says:


    Planned Parenthood locations have training for such events.

    Back in my bachelor days – more than 20 years ago – I used to go to the local Planned Parenthood for STD testing & I was amazed at the the level of security in the facility. When I expressed surprise I was told “Unfortunately, there are people out there that want to hurt us, and they are not just talking about it”. This one in one of the most liberal communities in the country.

  35. Jenos Idanian says:

    @Mikey: Talk is cheap, Mikey. (Just look at annie.) It’s deeds that matter.

    After all, whenever another Muslim goes on a violent spree, we’re not supposed to link the violence to his faith — even when the psycho explicitly links his faith to his violence. Not even when the psycho goes into great detail with Koranic citations for why what he did was perfectly in line with the tenets of his faith — it’s wrong to link his words with his deeds.

    This guy, though, said a bunch of rambling things, among them “baby parts.” Police say what he’s saying is pretty incoherent.

    And just what do you think that “baby parts” is a reference to, anyway?

  36. C. Clavin says:

    @Jenos Idanian:
    It’s a reference to those phony videos Republicans have been ranting about for months.
    But you have the question backwards…you condemn all of Islam for the actions of a few; why don’t you condemn Christianity for the actions of a few?
    Don’t bother…we all know the answer.

  37. Jenos Idanian says:

    @C. Clavin: What was “phony” about those videos, Cliffy?

    Oh, yeah. They don’t conform to your narrow world view and limited mentality, so they’re “phony.”

    Nice to see you branch out from your usual limited vocabulary. Most often you call things you don’t like “stupid” or “insane.”

    It’s not so surprising that you have such limited options to express your mental limitations…

  38. Jenos Idanian says:

    @C. Clavin: Also, Cliffy… wasn’t talking to you. I don’t recall the last time I chose to address you first; you just horn in with your inane, hateful blatherings. Have you tried getting a hobby, Cliffy?

  39. Mikey says:

    @Jenos Idanian:

    After all, whenever another Muslim goes on a violent spree, we’re not supposed to link the violence to his faith — even when the psycho explicitly links his faith to his violence.

    Strawman alert! Nobody says that, they say we shouldn’t impugn the faith of a billion and a half people because some tiny number use that faith to justify violence. Should the Planned Parenthood shooter turn out to be a devout Christian, I would say exactly the same thing.

    And just what do you think that “baby parts” is a reference to, anyway?

    It’s quite obviously a reference to what was put out in a deceptively-edited-to-the-point-of-being-lies set of videos produced by a group that today has a lot to answer for.

  40. Matt says:

    @Jenos Idanian: It’s because PP has been attacked so many times they have routine training for this stuff. From firebombing to shootings they have training to handle it all.

    @Jenos Idanian: You know the bullshit that Fiona made up? The fake videos that used videos from completely unrelated stuff while claiming it was all from a PP clinic?

    Even the released videos were so extremely heavily edited they wouldn’t even be allowed as evidence in any court of law in the USA.

  41. Grewgills says:

    Jenos, Jenos

    After all, whenever another Muslim goes on a violent spree, we’re not supposed to link the violence to his faith —

    No one objects to linking the terrorism of jihadi terrorists to the specific sect or group of Muslims that the terrorists come from. I am sure, for instance, that no one here wold much object to tarring Wahabism because of the actions of Al Quaeda. Similarly, I doubt anyone here will tar all of Christianity because of the actions of terrorists that attack PP clinics. People will condemn the specific groups of Christians that by their actions encourage this type of behavior. That is logically and ethically consistent. Tarring all of Islam due to the actions of a few while claiming the actions of Christian terrorists are lone wolf actions that have no ties to their religion is not logically or ethically consistent. Do you see the difference?

    And just what do you think that “baby parts” is a reference to, anyway?

    I think everyone, including you, knows exactly what it was in reference to. He also rambled about Obama. There is little doubt that he was a right wing Christian reactionary.

    What was “phony” about those videos

    Do you really not know? Have you buried you head in your ideology so deeply that you haven’t seen any of the evidence that the videos were heavily edited? Did you also miss that it used footage of a still moving stillborn fetus that was not from a PP clinic and claimed that it was a still living aborted infant from a PP clinic that was about to have its organs harvested? You need to get out of your ideological bubble every once in a while and look at evidence that might go against your world view.