Home Page

3 dead, suspect in custody in Westside Planned Parenthood shootings

       A man has been taken into custody in a mass-shooting incident that extended over five hours Nov. 27 at the Planned Parenthood building, 3480 Centennial Blvd., and left three people dead.
       Robert Lewis Dear, 57, of Hartsel, Colorado was arrested later that evening and formally advised of his rights at a court hearing Nov. 30. According to a Colorado Springs Police press
A file photo from the hillside to the west shows the commercial/office center that includes the Planned Parenthood building in the foreground and one of the center's private streets. To the left (north) is the Center on Centennial rehabilitation facility, while to the right (east), between Planned Parenthood and Centennial Boulevard, is the Centennial Professional Building.
Westside Pioneer file photo
release, his next hearing date will be Wednesday, December 9.. The suspect is being represented by the Colorado Public Defender’s Office.
       In the last of three on-scene news conferences Nov. 27 (at 7 p.m., about two hours after the arrest), police spokesperson Catherine Buckley said that those shot to death were a police officer from UCCS (which was among several agencies aiding city police) and two civilians. She was not able to provide names at that time. However, since then authorities have released their identities. The UCCS officer was Garrett
UCCS Police Officer Garrett Swasey, who was slain in the line of duty in the Nov. 27 shootings.
Courtesy of UCCS
Swasey, 44, a six-year veteran. According to UCCS Chancellor Pam Shockley Zalabak, Swasey "was on duty at the campus and responded in support of Colorado Springs Police."
       A Nov. 30 press release states that the civilians who died were Jennifer Markovsky, 35; and Ke’Arre Marcell Stewart, 29.
       The number of injured has changed since news conference information Nov. 27. A press release update Nov. 28 states that four civilians and five law enforcement officers were shot and another three law enforcement officers were injured (but not from gunshot wounds). "All are in good condition and expected to make a full recovery," the press release adds.
       All those people's names were still being withheld as of Nov. 30.
       Buckley said the suspect gave up after police "shouted to him and were able to get him to surrender."
       Police were continuing to investigate and to process "items" that were in bags the suspect had brought with him, Buckley said. Police Chief Pete Carey said it will take several days to complete the investigation.
       The Nov. 28 press release announced that it "will be a joint investigation with the Colorado Springs Police Department, the El Paso County Sheriff's Office, the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs Police Department, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the Colorado Bureau of Investigation and the Federal Bureau of Investigation." All these agencies were also involved in the shooter incident itself.
       Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers spoke at two on-scene news conferences Nov. 27 after the arrest, saying the officers performed the "most incredible work" in capturing the suspect. "This was a terrible, terrible tragedy, but the way the police handled it prevented it from being even worse."
       Through the five-hour time frame, which took place during steady snowfall, the shooter was in or near the Planned Parenthood clinic, armed with what Buckley described as a “long rifle” of an undetermined make and caliber and exchanging fire with police multiple times.
       In a news conference at 4 p.m. Nov. 27, Buckley reported that police had gotten into the building and that people who had been inside the clinic were being evacuated. A Nov. 28 press release states that 24 uninjured people were evacuated from Planned Parenthood during the incident.
       A call for service at Planned Parenthood was first reported at 11:38 a.m. Nov. 27. Buckley said the suspect was taken into custody at 4:52 p.m.
       The single-story Planned Parenthood facility, which is set back from Centennial (accessible from a private street), is in a commercial center on the west side of the major arterial that includes a King Soopers.
       The reproductive-care entity - part of a national organization that has been politically controversial for performing abortions and for abortion-related activities - has been at the location for five years.
       No evacuations were ordered for the Holland Park neighborhood to the north or Kissing Camels to the west, but businesses in the commercial center were told to “shelter in space,” Buckley said (meaning that people in them were unable to leave through the entire event).
       Streets in the immediate area were closed during the incident, including Centennial between Fillmore Street and Garden of the Gods Road through Nov. 29.
       On Nov. 29, a statement was released from Swasey's wife Rachel, as follows:
       “The family of Officer Garrett Swasey sincerely thanks everyone for their support during this very difficult time. Our loss cannot be expressed in words. While the nation now knows Garrett as a hero who gave his life for others, he was also a devoted husband of 17 years and a wonderful father to his two children. His greatest joys were his family, his church, and his profession. We will cherish his memory, especially those times he spent tossing the football to his son and snuggling with his daughter on the couch.
       "Garrett was born in Melrose, Massachusetts. After a successful career in ice skating, Garrett found his calling as a police officer. Helping others brought him deep satisfaction and being a police officer was a part of him. In the end, his last act was for the safety and well-being of others and was a tribute to his life. What we need most today, and in the coming weeks, is your prayers for our family and for others who were impacted by this tragedy. We are grateful for the tremendous outpouring of love that has come from the community and across the nation.
       "We understand this is a public tragedy felt by many and we also appreciate your support for us to grieve privately.”
       Donations for the family can be made at this link.

Westside Pioneer article
(Posted 11/27/15; updated 11/30/15 Community: Public Safety)

Would you like to respond to this article? The Westside Pioneer welcomes letters at editor@westsidepioneer.com. (Click here for letter-writing criteria.)