Emotions, Politics at Vigil for Friday’s Victims

November 28, 2015
Attendees at a vigil Saturday morning write messages of support for the victims' familiesAttendees at a vigil Saturday morning write messages of support for the victims' families Andrea Chalfin
Attendees at a vigil Saturday morning write messages of support for the victims' families

Vigils are being held in Colorado Springs Saturday for the victims of Friday's shootout at the Planned Parenthood clinic on the city's northwest side. Governor John Hickenlooper has ordered flags lowered to half-staff until further notice. 

Three were killed Friday as a gunman holed up in the clinic for hours.  Among the dead are two civilians, and Officer Garrett Swasey, a six-year veteran of the police department at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.

The first vigil took place at All-Souls Unitarian Universalist Church in downtown Colorado Springs, with Reverend Dr. Nori Rost presiding.  Some in attendance wrote notes in support of victims' families; others hugged and some had tears in their eyes.

"We're here to honor the lives of those who were killed yesterday by domestic terrorists," said Nost in her opening remarks.  "We're here to honor the work of Planned Parenthood, and stand with them in solidarity," she continued.  "We're here to honor the amazing response of Colorado Springs Police Department and other first responders."

Vicki Cowart, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood Rocky Mountains, addresses those assembled at Saturday morning's vigil at the All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church.Credit Andrea Chalfin / KRCC
Vicki Cowart, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood Rocky Mountains, addresses those assembled at Saturday morning's vigil at the All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church.

After receiving a standing ovation, Vicki Cowart, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood Rocky Mountains, said there are still so many questions. "We don't know yet why this happened," she said.  "We can speculate a little bit, but there are a few things we do know, and I'm going to talk about that."  Cowart went on to say people come to Planned Parenthood for all kinds of health reasons, including cancer screenings, testing and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases, and abortions.  "And all of those are life saving services that we provide," she said.  "And we provide them all equally, proudly."

One woman stood up after Cowart spoke, and, after expressing her support for Planned Parenthood, expressed anger about the political tone of some of the speakers.  "I thought we were here to grieve and mourn for the people that died, not make political statements," she said before leaving.

Rost responded, saying that the gathering was to mourn those who died. "But it's also important to recognize and remember people who face harm's way every day," she said.  "Not only because of being a member of Planned Parenthood, because of the access, the unlimited, the obscene access to assault weapons we have in this community."

Officials have identified the alleged gunman as 57-year-old Robert Dear, who is in custody.  Authorities are not commenting on motive, although according to the Associated Press, Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers said early Saturday people can make "inferences from where it took place."

Updated information from the city says four civilians were transported to hospitals with gunshot wounds.  Five law enforcement officers, four with the Colorado Springs Police Department and one from the El Paso County Sheriff's Office, were also taken to hospitals with gunshot wounds.  Three additional police officers were injured.  All are in good condition and expected to make full recoveries.

During the incident on Friday, 24 people were evacuated from the Planned Parenthood building unharmed.  300 were sheltering in place at surrounding businesses. 

Authorities say the names of the two civilians killed will not be released until after autopsies are conducted and relatives notified.  Autopsies are scheduled for Monday.

Dear is from Hartsel, but has ties to North Carolina.   A court appearance is scheduled for Monday.  The investigation involves multiple local, state, and federal agencies.

UCCS held moments of silence prior to two basketball games today to honor Officer Garrett Swasey.  A candlelight vigil is planned for 7:30 PM at the university.