Justice Department To Probe Tiller Killing

The Justice Department has announced an investigation into whether federal crimes were committed in connection with the murder of Dr. George Tiller.

In a press release, DOJ writes that it will probe whether there were violations of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act or other federal statutes in the case.The release explains:

The FACE Act was enacted by Congress in 1994 to establish federal criminal penalties and civil remedies for violent, obstructionist or damaging conduct affecting reproductive health care providers and recipients.

A witness has said publicly that Scott Roeder, who has been charged with Tiller’s murder, was twice seen trying to glue the locks of a Kansas City abortion clinic in the week before the shooting. As has been reported, the FACE Act explicitly declares that it’s a federal crime to vandalize an abortion clinic.

Questions have been raised — including by us — about whether the FBI responded aggressively enough to tips about those incidents. And it looks like DOJ is concerned to push back against that criticism. The release continues:

“The Department of Justice will work tirelessly to determine the full involvement of any and all actors in this horrible crime, and to ensure that anyone who played a role in the offense is prosecuted to the full extent of federal law,” said Loretta King, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “We will conduct a thorough investigation that will complement and build upon the fine work of the Sedgwick County District Attorney and other state and local law enforcement agencies.”

The prosecution of Roeder is being primarily handled by the Wichita-based District Attorney’s office. We had known that a federal probe into the circumstances around the killing had also been opened. But DOJ’s announcement suggests that this is being prioritized as a national matter.