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Accused Planned Parenthood Shooter Shouts 'I'm Guilty' In Court


In Colorado Springs, the man accused in the mass shooting at a Planned Parenthood office there was arraigned. Robert Dear faces multiple charges, including first-degree murder. Dear's legs and arms were cuffed, and he frequently interrupted the court proceedings, yelling several times. Colorado public radio's Ben Markus was in the courtroom, and he joins us now. And Ben Markus, to start, this was the first time that Dear appeared in person in court since his arrest. Can you describe the proceedings? What happened?

BEN MARKUS, BYLINE: Sure. While his lawyers were discussing pretty routine matters related to future media coverage, Dear suddenly shouted that he was guilty and that he's, quote, "a warrior for the babies." Dear had more than a dozen outbursts in the hour-long hearing, including, quote, "kill the babies; that's what Planned Parenthood does," unquote. He ranted that he saw atrocities in the clinic and lots of blood. He accused his public defenders, at one point, of conspiring with Planned Parenthood against him. He said he wouldn't submit to a mental health evaluation, fearing that his attorneys would try to drug him up.

CORNISH: What was the reaction in court to all of this?

MARKUS: It sent a jolt through the courtroom at first, but the judge pretty much let him rant throughout the hearing. Dear's public defenders seemed to be shaken by the outbursts, especially when he accused them of trying to drug him up. When Dear wouldn't let the judge talk near the end of the hearing, a deputy sheriff touched him on the shoulder, whispered something into his ear. And after that, he was pretty quiet.

CORNISH: Remind us what's going on with this investigation, what's known about this shooting which took place the day after Thanksgiving.

MARKUS: Right. The attack happened at a Planned Parenthood clinic which offers abortion services among many other things. Many of the details of the shooting are still not known. What is known is prosecutors allege that Robert Dear killed three people, one police officer and two civilians that day. He wounded at least nine more in what was a tense five-hour standoff with police until he surrendered.

CORNISH: So happens next for Robert Dear?

MARKUS: He'll be back in court in two weeks for a status hearing. His public defender told the judge, obviously, in light of Dear's repeated outbursts today, that there are mental health issues and issues of competency to work out before a preliminary hearing or any other hearings can be held in this case. After the preliminary hearing, if that happens, Dear can enter a plea in the case. And then at that point, the district attorney will have to decide if they seek the death penalty or not.

CORNISH: This is a closely watched case in Colorado Springs. What was the scene in and around the courtroom? I don't know what kind of bystanders were there and what they were saying.

MARKUS: Victims and their family were here. There were many people milling about out front. You know, it is - as soon as somebody says the Planned Parenthood shooting, people know exactly what it is. It is - has been front-page news, headline news. It's been in, you know, most newscasts every single day. So people know right away when you say Planned Parenthood down here what they're talking about.

CORNISH: And you mentioned victims' families being in the courtroom. What was their reaction to Robert Dear yelling out?

MARKUS: They seemed shocked, just as shocked as the public defenders were. Some gasped, clearly did not expect him to outburst like that in the middle of court proceedings.

CORNISH: That's Colorado Public Radio's Ben Markus. He's following the mass shooting case at a Planned Parenthood office in Colorado Springs where there was a court appearance of the defendant in that case today, Robert Dear. Ben, thanks so much for talking with us.

MARKUS: Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ben Markus