Special Reports

Justice Department looks into George Tiller killing

The Justice Department on Friday opened an investigation into the killing of George Tiller to see whether more than one person was involved.

The department will investigate possible federal crimes in connection with Tiller's slaying at his church Sunday. Local prosecutors have said the case does not meet state criteria for seeking the death penalty, but federal prosecutors did not rule out doing so as they announced their own investigation.

"The Department of Justice will work tirelessly to determine the full involvement of any and all actors in this horrible crime," said Loretta King, head of the department's civil rights division.

Anyone who played a role in the killing, she said, will be prosecuted "to the full extent of federal law."

The department will seek to determine whether the killing violated a 1994 law creating criminal penalties for violent or damaging conduct toward abortion providers and their patients.

Dan Monnat, an attorney for the Tiller family, said he welcomes "any investigation that will assist in determining all persons who encouraged or assisted this horrible act and result in their prosecution."

Tiller's funeral is scheduled for today.

Wichita Police Chief Norman Williams said agents from the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were at the scene of the shooting and immediately began helping with the investigation. He said the federal agents worked with their counterparts in the Kansas City area.

"Throughout the week, investigators from the Wichita Police Department's Investigations Division met with representatives from the Justice Department, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Sedgwick County District Attorney's Office and the United States Attorney's Office as part of their ongoing criminal investigation," Williams said in a statement.

"As the result of these meetings, the decision that the Wichita Police Department would continue its homicide investigation into Dr. Tiller's murder was reinforced since the crime was committed in the City of Wichita."

Williams said the federal investigation would have no impact on his department's homicide investigation.

"The two parallel investigations will continue to reflect the collaborative and cooperative efforts that have been demonstrated by local, state and federal law enforcement agencies, the Sedgwick County District Attorney's Office and the U.S. Attorney's Office," he said.

Authorities have charged Scott Roeder, 51, with Tiller's death. Roeder is charged with first-degree murder and is being held on $5 million bond at Sedgwick County Jail.

If convicted of the state murder charge, Roeder would face a mandatory life sentence and would not be eligible for parole for at least 25 years.

Steve Osburn, the lawyer representing Roeder in the state case, had no comment on the federal investigation.