Special Reports

Roeder to face trial in Tiller killing; pleads not guilty at arraignment

WICHITA — Gary Hoepner was grabbing a doughnut at the snack table at his church with George Tiller when he saw a man walk up, put a gun to the Wichita abortion doctor's head and pull the trigger, Hoepner testified in Sedgwick County District Court this morning.

Hoepner then pointed to Scott Roeder as the man with the gun the morning of May 31.

Hoepner was testifying in Roeder's preliminary hearing on murder charges in Tiller's death.

Following the hearing, Judge Warren Wilbert ordered Roeder to stand trial on one count of first-degree murder and two counts of aggravated assault.

Roeder, 51, pleaded not guilty at his arraignment this afternoon.

Church had already begun, Hoepner said. He and Tiller were serving as ushers that morning.

"It was surreal," Hoepner said of the shooting.

"It sounded like a little popgun."

Then Tiller fell. Hoepner knew the gun was real.

Hoepner said he followed Roeder out an east door at Reformation Lutheran Church.

As Hoepner ran across the grass, he said Roeder looked over his shoulder and yelled, "I've got a gun, and I'll shoot you."

"I believed him and I stopped," Hoepner said. "I don't argue with a man with a gun."

Hoepner said he ran to his truck in the parking lot and called 911.

He also said he saw Keith Martin, another church member, run after Roeder. Roeder also threatened Martin with the gun, Hoepner testified.

Martin testified that when he heard the gunshot, he thought it was a firecracker. Then he saw Tiller on the floor.

Martin had also been ushering that morning and had been drinking coffee and looking out a window waiting for late arrivals.

Martin said he saw a man running across the parking lot. Martin cut through the Fellowship Hall and attempted to intercept the man, who ran toward a car. Martin stopped short of the car.

"Move," the man said.

Martin stood his ground. But the man then aimed a gun. Martin could see down the barrel of what looked like a small caliber handgun.

"I'll shoot you," the man said.

Martin moved.

In court, Martin testified he recognized Roeder as the man who pointed the gun at him that morning.

Another church member who testified today, Thornton Anderson, said he had arrived at church late that morning so he had to park far from the building.

As Anderson stepped out of his car, he testified he saw three men running across the parking lot. It looked like two were chasing the lead man, who disappeared between two cars.

"Get the tag number," Hoepner remembered yelling.

Anderson said he heard a door slam. A car roared toward him, going about as fast as it could go and still make the turn out of the parking lot onto Broadmoor, Anderson remembered.

"It was like someone was trying to get away," Anderson said.

The car passed about 6 to 8 feet from Anderson, and he could see the tag clearly. He could still recall it today, nearly two months later.

"225 BAB," Anderson said.

District Attorney Nola Foulston and her chief deputies Kim Parker and Ann Swegle will prosecute the case. Public defenders Steve Osburn and Mark Rudy represent Roeder.

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