(CN) — The U.S. Department of Justice will not seek the death penalty against a man accused of killing three individuals at a Planned Parenthood clinic in 2015.
The document filed on Wednesday by U.S. Attorney Jason Dunn offered no explanation for the decision.
A federal grand jury indicted Robert Dear Jr., 62, last year, adding 68 federal charges to the plate of 179 charges from Colorado’s Fourth Judicial District, including eight charges of first-degree murder.
According to the indictment, Dear entered the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood on Nov. 27, 2015, armed with “four SKS rifles, five handguns, two additional rifles, a shotgun, more than 500 rounds of ammunition, and propane tanks.”
“Intending to wage a war” against the fertility clinic which provides abortions, Dear fired 198 bullets at patients and staff both in the parking lot and inside the facility, killing three, including a police officer.
Law enforcement engaged with Dear in a five-hour standoff, during which he shot at firefighters and police officers. He also attempted to shoot at and blow up the propane tank, according to prosecutors.
Dear previously told police he hoped he would be greeted by “aborted fetuses at the gates of heaven and they would thank him for what he did because his actions saved the lives of other unborn fetuses,” according to his arrest warrant.
After his arrest, Dear was held at the State Mental Hospital in Pueblo and evaluated quarterly to determine whether he is mentally fit to stand trial. While Dear repeatedly failed the state’s exams, he has long maintained he considers himself mentally competent.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Kristen Mix ordered Dear to undergo a pre-trial mental competency exam. Lewis’ defense counsel filed a motion on Nov. 30 requesting the pre-trial competency exam be conducted by a certified psychologist at the Federal Detention Center in Englewood where he is currently detained.
Led by federal public defender Virginia Grady, Dear’s defense team expressed concern about transporting Dear amid the Covid-19 pandemic since he is at “heightened risk for severe illness or death from coronavirus infection due to his advanced age — he’s 62 — and documented history of health problems, including hypertension.”
If convicted, Dear faces a minimum penalty of 10 years in prison.
While the Justice Department has executed eight death row inmates over the last six months, Colorado lawmakers abolished the state’s death penalty in February. Shortly thereafter, Gov. Jared Polis commuted the state’s last three death row inmates to life sentences.
According to a 2019 Gallup Poll, 60% of Americans prefer life imprisonment compared to 36% who support the death penalty.
The U.S. attorney’s office for the District of Colorado did not immediately respond to a request for comment.