Special Reports

Comments from suspect in George Tiller shooting fuel unease

Abortion providers say that comments from a man accused in the shooting death of a high-profile Kansas abortion provider prove the existence of a "violent, terrorist movement" coalescing around the issue.

Scott Roeder called the Associated Press on Sunday from the Sedgwick County Jail, where he's being held on charges of first-degree murder and aggravated assault in the shooting death of George Tiller last week at the doctor's church in Wichita.

"I know there are many other similar events planned around the country as long as abortion remains legal," Roeder said. When asked by the AP if he was referring to another shooting, he refused to elaborate.

It wasn't clear whether Roeder knew of any impending violence or was simply seeking publicity for his cause. Law enforcement authorities, including the Justice Department, said they didn't know whether Sunday's comments were credible. And a leader of the anti-abortion movement derided Roeder as "a lunatic."

"He is a terrorist -- there is no question about that. I don't believe he is an isolated terrorist," said LeRoy Carhart, a Nebraska abortion provider who also practiced at Tiller's Wichita clinic.

In response to the remarks, physician Warren Hern of Boulder, Colo., called on President Obama to go on national television and demand that anti-abortion violence and terrorism stop.

"It is exactly the same as the Taliban, but the Taliban is 8,000 miles away and the Taliban is too civilized to assassinate people in mosques," said Hern, one of the few remaining doctors in the country who performs late-term abortions.

Carhart acknowledged Roeder might just be trying to get publicity, but noted that Tiller was not the first abortion provider killed.

"There is more than one lunatic running loose in this country that can be influenced by the religious rhetoric," Carhart said.

Tiller's clinic, one of the few in the country to perform late-term abortions, had been a target of regular demonstrations. Most were peaceful, but his clinic was bombed in 1986 and he was shot in both arms in 1993. In 1991, a 45-day "Summer of Mercy" campaign organized by Operation Rescue drew thousands of abortion opponents to Wichita, and there were more than 2,700 arrests.

The Justice Department opened an investigation Friday to see if Tiller's killer had accomplices. The department said its Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney's Office in Kansas would investigate whether the killing violated a 1994 law creating criminal penalties for violent or damaging conduct toward abortion providers and their patients.

Troy Newman, president of the anti-abortion group Operation Rescue, sent an e-mail to the AP on Sunday saying of Tiller's accused shooter: "This guy is... a lunatic."

Roeder, 51, told the AP he refused to talk to investigators after he was arrested a few hours after Tiller's shooting and has made no statements to police since then.

"I just told them I needed to talk to my lawyer," Roeder said.

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