Colorado Springs Police announced that they arrested Robert Lewis Dear in the Friday shootings that left three people dead, including a police officer, at the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood. No motive has yet been announced, but Politico has an update here. FBI agents were on the scene providing assistance, but I would imagine they also had – or could have – an investigative role in this alleged crime.
That is because a federal statute – 18 U.S.C. 248, the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act – makes it a crime to use force or the threat of force or physical obstruction to intentionally injure, intimidate, or interfere with (or to attempt to do the same) any person because that person has been, or to intimidate others from, obtaining or providing reproductive services. Although we still need to learn more about why Dear allegedly committed these killings, and whether there is any connection to the reproductive services that Planned Parenthood provides, it may turn out that the Feds will be examining the application of the FACE law here. Note also that if the FACE law applies and is considered a crime of violence under federal law, then Dear could potentially face additional charges and punishment under 18 U.S.C. 924(c), which provides penalty enhancements – including the death penalty – for use of a firearm during or in relation to a crime of violence.
For now, though, we can only speculate as to the perpetrator’s intent or motive for these killings, as well as about the possibility of mental illness. And it appears that the Colorado state prosecutors are, for the moment, taking the lead. But do not rule out the possibility of a federal role as this investigation unfolds.