Days after a shooting rampage at a Colorado Springs, Colorado Planned Parenthood clinic left a police officer and two civilians dead and nine others wounded, details are beginning to emerge about Robert Lewis Dear Jr., the suspect charged in the attack.
Dear, 57, surrendered to police after an hours-long standoff on Friday.
He has been described as a reclusive loner and “someone to watch out for” by his former neighbors. Dear drifted between various “off the grid” residences, including a shack in North Carolina that had no running water or electricity. Police records also showed a string of run-ins with the law ranging from domestic abuse to a Peeping Tom charge.
He believed anti-abortion extremists were doing “God’s work”
Dear described himself as deeply religious and people who knew him said he was strongly opposed to abortion, according to a New York Times special report.
A person who spoke at length with Dear about his religious beliefs told the Times Dear believed those who attacked abortion providers were doing “God’s work.” The anonymous source said Dear also praised the Army of God, an anti-abortion extremist group linked to the murders of abortion providers, as “heroes.”
An affidavit from Dear’s divorce from his second wife, Barbara Micheau, described him as an abusive gambler who was “obsessed with the world coming to an end,” according to the report. The document also describes Dear’s repeated adultery, saying he fathered two children with two other women during their marriage.
While authorities have not disclosed a motive for the shooting, multiple outlets have reported Dear said “no more baby parts” in a winding interview with police after his capture. That’s likely a reference to the surreptitiously filmed and heavily edited videos of Planned Parenthood officials discussing fetal tissue research.
The videos became a touchstone in the debate around abortion rights, with many Republican presidential candidates referencing “selling baby parts” in debates and on the campaign trail.
The Times report also noted Dear frequently posted in online marijuana forums, admonishing and picking fights with other users.
“Turn to JESUS or burn in hell,” Dear reportedly posted on one site in 2005. “WAKE UP SINNERS U CANT SAVE YOURSELF U WILL DIE AN [sic] WORMS SHALL EAT YOUR FLESH, NOW YOUR SOUL IS GOING SOMEWHERE.”
He has a history of violence against women
Police records from June 1997 show a domestic violence call from Dear’s then-third wife Pamela Ross, who told Colleton County, South Carolina police that Dear “hit her and pushed her out the window” when she was locked out of her house and tried to climb into through a window.
While Ross declined to press charges in the incident, she told police she still “wanted something on record of this incident occurring.”
The couple divorced in 2000, with Dear taking custody of the couple’s 12-year-old son in North Carolina.
“It’s just too devastating; it’s just something you can’t fathom happening,” Ross said in a brief interview with The Washington Post after the shooting.
Dear was also charged with rape in South Carolina 1992 after he allegedly held a knife to a woman’s neck and sexually assaulted her, The Post and Courier newspaper reported. The incident is mentioned in the affidavit from Dear’s divorce from Micheau.
The paper could not determine how the case was resolved, as no disposition for the charge was included in police records.
He was arrested on Peeping Tom and animal cruelty charges
Police records obtained by The Daily Beast showed Dear had previously been arrested in June 2002 on Peeping Tom charges. The charges were later dismissed.
According to a police report, Dear’s next-door neighbor Lynn Roberts and her husband accused Dear of “leering at Ms. Roberts on a regular basis” beginning in March 2002. Roberts first noticed Dear hiding in the bushes by her house on Memorial Day weekend in 2001 and “had been making unwanted advancements to the victim,” the report said.
Court records obtained by the Beast show Roberts was granted a restraining order against Dear in July 2002, two months after the couple’s dog found Dear looking into their house.
Dear was arrested again in January 2003 for animal cruelty after police responded to a November 2002 report that a dog belonging to Dear’s neighbor, Douglas Moore, had been shot.
The police report on the incident said Moore’s dog was walking down the driveway “when a shot was fired from [a] residence next to his.” The dog was shot with a pellet gun and survived the incident.
Dear denied shooting the dog, but told police “Douglas was lucky that it was only a pellet that hit the dog and not a bigger round,” according to the report. He was found not guilty on the animal cruelty charge.
Two years later, Moore reported to police that Dear allegedly threatened him bodily harm, saying he thought Moore pushed his motorcycle over. The report calls it an “ongoing problem between the victim and the suspect.”
Neighbors called him “someone to watch out for”
Another anonymous neighbor who spoke to The Washington Post described Dear’s delusional behavior and said he “complained about everything.”
“He said he worked with the government, and everybody was out to get him, and he knew the secrets of the USA,” the neighbor told the Post. “He said, ‘Nobody touch me, because I’ve got enough information to put the whole U.S. of A in danger.’ It was very crazy.”
A local resident in Hartsel, Colorado, a town of about 700 where Dear lived in a trailer, told The New York Times that Dear was the type “that preferred to be left alone.”
He once handed out anti-Obama pamphlets
Zigmond Post, a neighbor of Dear’s in Hartsel, told BuzzFeed News that after he went to Dear’s house to retrieve his dogs that had gotten loose, Dear promptly handed over anti-Obama literature.
“We were there for a minute and the guy was already handing us anti-Obama pamphlets,” Post said. Post also alleged that Dear said “Obama was ruining the country and needed to be impeached.”
He was accidentally listed as a woman on voting records
In conservatives’ rush to distance themselves from any pro-life connection to the Planned Parenthood shooting, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) said the suspect may be “a woman and a transgendered leftist activist.” The 2016 contender was referencing reports that Dear was identified as a woman in his voter registration papers, which sparked speculation about his gender identity.
But the Colorado Springs Gazette found it was a simple clerical error that led to the gender discrepancy, which showed up on both his voter registration card and driver’s license. Dear requested that both documents be corrected. His gender was never corrected on his voter registration card, although he did receive a corrected driver’s license, according to the newspaper.
This post has been updated.