Anti-abortion extremist Scott Roeder was charged yesterday afternoon with the assassination of Dr. George Tiller, and many are beginning to question whether he was truly "a lone nut," or a member of a network of domestic terrorists.
A Wichita court charged Roeder with first degree murder, and with aggravated assault for waving his gun at other churchgoers when he shot Tiller. Because of the requirements of Kansas law, Roeder won't be eligible for the death penalty. Police also say that a man who looked like Roeder was caught pouring super glue into the lock of a Kansas City abortion clinic door the day before Tiller's slaying. Clinic workers saw the man's license plate, which matched Roeder's, and said he kept repeating phrases like "baby killer." As to whether the police or FBI should have responded more quickly to this act of vandalism, potentially preventing Tiller's slaying, a worker at the Kansas City clinic said, "I wish I was smart enough to answer that. He wasn't one of the ones I worried about most."
One person who did think Roeder was someone to worry about was his ex-wife, Lindsey Roeder. She says he took his son to see Star Trek the Friday before the killing, unusual both because he rarely went out with his son and because he usually rested in honor of the Sabbath beginning Friday at dusk. "Looking back, I think it was a way of saying goodbye to his son," she says. Lindsey Roeder also told reporters that her ex-husband was capable of murder. "He was determined that if the abortion doctor killed the baby, then he didn't have any right to live either," she said.
Disturbing evidence continues to mount that Roeder had ties to extremist groups. He may have been involved with the Freemen, a Montana-based anti-government group. In 1996, he was arrested for carrying a fuse cord and gunpowder in his trunk (his ex-wife says he planned to blow up an abortion clinic then), and at the time his license plate proclaimed that he was immune from Kansas law, a claim associated with the Freemen.
Some anti-abortionists, too, have expressed that they knew Roeder and even respect what he did. Kansas City anti-abortion protester Regina Dinwiddie recalls speaking with and even hugging Roeder, and says she is "glad" Tiller is dead. Dave Leach, publisher of the magazine Prayer and Action News, says that while Roeder "has not inspired me to shoot an abortionist, [...] he will be the hero to thousands of babies who will not be slain because Scott sacrificed everything for them." And although Operation Rescue has condemned Roeder's actions, the phone number of the organization's Senior Policy Advisor Cheryl Sullenger was found in his car.
Though many in the anti-abortion movement have condemned Roeder as a crazy fringe element, it's clear he was not alone in his views, and the fringe may be far wider than some claim. Hunter at the Daily Kos writes,
The extent to which violent figures within the movement know each other and interact seems worthy of substantive investigation. Perhaps it will prevent the next murder, one which no doubt will also be called an "isolated act."
Meanwhile, Tiller's clinic remains closed. The Tiller family has issued a statement that,
There is currently no plan to immediately reopen the clinic, and no patients are being scheduled at this time. The Tiller family's focus, of course, is to determine what is in the best interests of the employees and the patients.
George Tiller's Clinic To Reopen, 'Resume Normal Operations' [UPDATED] [Huffington Post]
Suspect Charged In Slaying Of Abortion Provider George Tiller [LA Times]
Suspect In Doctor's Killing Tied To Vandalism Case [NY Times]
Alleged Shooter's Ex-Wife: He Was Capable Of Murder [CNN]
Concerns Mount That Suspect In Abortion-Doctor Shooting Had Extremist Ties [Christian Science Monitor]
Scott Roeder's Network Of Support [Daily Kos]