Abortion doctor killed in Kansas church

Dr. George Tiller, who kept providing late-term abortions despite decades of protests and attacks, was shot and killed Sunday in a church where he was serving as an usher.

WICHITA, Kan. — Dr. George Tiller, who kept providing late-term abortions despite decades of protests and attacks, was shot and killed Sunday in a church where he was serving as an usher.

The gunman fled, but a 51-year-old suspect was detained 250 kilometres away in suburban Kansas City three hours after the shooting, Wichita deputy police chief Tom Stolz said.

Johnson County sheriff’s spokesman Tom Erickson identified the detained man as Scott Roeder. He has not been charged in the slaying and was expected to be taken to Wichita for questioning.

Police did not release a motive for the shooting. But the doctor’s violent death was the latest in a string of shootings and bombings over two decades directed against abortion clinics, doctors and staff.

Long a focus of national anti-abortion groups, including a summer-long protest in 1991, Tiller was shot in the foyer of Reformation Lutheran Church. Tiller’s attorney, Dan Monnat, said Tiller’s wife, Jeanne, was in the choir at the time.

The slaying of the 67-year-old doctor is “an unspeakable tragedy,” his widow, four children and 10 grandchildren said in statement. “This is particularly heart-wrenching because George was shot down in his house of worship, a place of peace.”

The family said its loss “is also a loss for the city of Wichita and women across America. George dedicated his life to providing women with high-quality health care despite frequent threats and violence.”

Stolz said all indications were that the gunman acted alone, although authorities were investigating whether he had any connection to anti-abortion groups.

Tiller’s Women’s Health Care Services clinic is one of just three in the U.S. where abortions are performed after the 21st week of pregnancy.

The clinic was heavily fortified and Tiller often travelled with a bodyguard, but Stolz said there was no indication of security at the church Sunday.

Anti-abortion groups denounced the shooting and stressed that they support only nonviolent protest.

The movement’s leaders fear the killing could create a backlash just as they are scrutinizing U.S. Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor, whose views on abortion rights are not publicly known.

“We are shocked at this morning’s disturbing news that Mr. Tiller was gunned down,” Troy Newman, Operation Rescue’s president, said in a statement.

“Operation Rescue has worked for years through peaceful, legal means, and through the proper channels to see him brought to justice. We denounce vigilantism and the cowardly act that took place this morning.”

President Barack Obama said he was “shocked and outraged” by the murder.

“However profound our differences as Americans over difficult issues such as abortion, they cannot be resolved by heinous acts of violence,” he said.

At Tiller’s church, Adam Watkins, 20, said he was sitting in the middle of the congregation when he heard a small pop at the start of the service.

“We just thought a child had come in with a balloon and it had popped, had gone up and hit the ceiling and popped,” Watkins said.

Another usher came in and told the congregation to remain seated, then escorted Tiller’s wife out. “When she got to the back doors, we heard her scream, and so we knew something bad had happened,” Watkins said. He said the service continued even after an associate pastor announced that Tiller had been injured.

Just Posted

Red Deer area businesses recognized at Business of the Year Awards night

“It’s an honour just to be nominated.” The popular words echoed throughout… Continue reading

Child sex offender should get 12 years: Crown prosecutor

Stuart Peter Hunt has pleaded guilty to 10 child sexual exploitation and pornography charges

Legalizing cannabis cost estimate for Red Deer just under $400k

Although the province of Alberta has announced $11.2 million for cannabis legalization,… Continue reading

WATCH: Every square tells a story: Edmonton expert is exploring Red Deer’s quilting history

Community members can bring in family heirloom quilts for documentation

Red Deer-area dads going through divorce are invited to Man Up

Support group formed to focus on positive activities, networking

WATCH: Two weeks away from Canadian Finals Rodeo in Red Deer

In just two weeks, Ponoka’s Shayna Weir will compete with the best… Continue reading

PHOTO: Say goodbye to City Hall Park flowers

A sure sign that winter is on its way is when City… Continue reading

PHOTO: Chew On This! campaign draws attention to national poverty

Lunch bags were being handed out in front of The Hub downtown… Continue reading

Wickenheiser, Pegula reflect NHL’s trend toward diversity

BUFFALO, N.Y. — With a laugh, Kim Pegula’s competitive nature kicked in… Continue reading

Harry and Meghan bring rain to drought-stricken Outback town

DUBBO, Australia — The Duke and Duchess of Sussex were jokingly thanked… Continue reading

TV Review: A Roseanne Barr-less ‘The Conners’ is a triumph

NEW YORK — Can there be a “Roseanne” without Roseanne? The answer… Continue reading

Canadian manufacturing sales fell 0.4 per cent in August: Statistics Canada

OTTAWA — Statistics Canada says manufacturing sales fell 0.4 per cent to… Continue reading

Brian Mulroney joins board of directors of New York-based pot company

NEW YORK — Former prime minister Brian Mulroney is joining the board… Continue reading

Canadians waking up to legalized cannabis: ‘My new dealer is the prime minister’

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — Canadians across the country woke up to legalized… Continue reading

Most Read