COLORADO SPRINGS (CN) - The Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood clinic has reopened, three months after an anti-abortionist's killing spree left three people dead and nine wounded.
Robert Dear, 57, surrendered to police on Nov. 27 after a five-hour standoff. He has since bragged about the amount of blood he left in the clinic, and called himself a "warrior for the babies." He was charged with 179 criminal counts, including murder and attempted murder, and remains in El Paso County Jail in Colorado as his case proceeds.
The clinic reopened Monday morning to 30 appointments and walk-ins. Two-thirds of the building remained taped off for repairs.
Irene Luckett, organizer of the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood Supporters group, told Courthouse News that while the clinic's reopening garnered a warm welcome from many in the community, she does not find it hard to believe that the shooting took place in her city.
"The community was already hostile and divided," Luckett said. "We have over 130 headquarters for Evangelical Christian churches located here. Ultra conservative 'pro-life' Christian Republicans are our politicians.
"I was in shock when I heard the news but I wasn't surprised. When police were called to the corner, I had been warning them for about a year that hostile activity was increasing on the corner by the anti-choice people and people driving into the neighborhood. I gave details."
El Paso County is split 50/50 on abortion issues: The last "personhood amendment" to try to ban abortion was narrowly defeated, with 49 percent support. A similar proposal in nearby Denver County garnered only 22 percent of the vote.
Luckett said she hopes the tragedy alerts people to the religious zealotry that some believe fueled Dear's rampage.
"The anti-choice became a lot quieter for the moment after the shooting because they didn't want to be connected to the shootings," Luckett said. "In their minds, they had nothing to do with it. Some of them were on the corner a week after the shooting. They have continued there in small groups every week. They were present at the opening. They are relentless."
Luckett said a select group of anti-abortion activists frequently confront her in public.
"(They) take a lot of photos and video of me, use my first name to intimidate and harass me when I'm on the corner," Luckett said. "Drivers yell at me. Male drivers have parked and come over to 'talk' to me or harass.
"I have my cellphone, driver's license and Medicare card in my pockets. I hang a whistle around my neck. I'm very aware of the people who approach me and my surroundings."
Colorado nonprofit Personhood USA announced last week that it would begin efforts to put another personhood amendment to ban abortion on the next Colorado Springs ballot.
"When Planned Parenthood announced that they were reopening, that confirmed for us that this was the right place to start," Personhood USA spokeswoman Jennifer Mason said.
"The people who reached out to us in Colorado Springs don't want any violence, including abortion, there."
One Colorado lawmaker, state Rep. JoAnn Windholz, R-Adams County, blamed Planned Parenthood for the killings .
"Violence is never the answer, but we must start pointing out who is the real culprit," Windholz posted on her Facebook page after the shootings. "The true instigator of this violence and all violence at any Planned Parenthood facility is Planned Parenthood themselves. Violence begets violence."
But since the clinic has reopened, Luckett said, she has felt more at ease as the community has embraced its return.
"There is a lot of relief. Supporters are very happy to see the clinic open and in the same location."
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