More than 100 federal officers, backed by city and state police, combed Birmingham Friday for clues to who planted the bomb that exploded outside an abortion clinic Thursday, killing an off-duty policeman and grievously wounding a nurse.
One witness told authorities he saw a man discard a brown wig into a blue bag near the scene at the New Woman All Women Health Care center and drive off in a pickup truck bearing North Carolina tags. But FBI spokesman Craig Dahle discounted that sighting, saying law enforcement officers still have no specific suspect and no group has asserted responsibility for the attack.
Bomb experts from the FBI and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms continued to try to determine if there is any connection between Thursday’s bombing and unsolved bombings last year that injured seven people in an Atlanta clinic building.
Mark Potok, editor of the Intelligence Report of the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, which tracks activities of fringe organizations, said the Birmingham bombing bears similarities to the Atlanta explosions - each employed homemade bombs filled with nails.
A note mailed to police and news agencies after the Atlanta bombings said “the murders of 3.5 million children every year will not be tolerated … Anyone in or around facilities that murder children may become victims of retribution. The next facility targeted may not be empty.”
Police expressed belief that the injured nurse, 41-year-old Emily Lyons, may have noticed something suspicious outside the door of the clinic when she arrived for work about 7:30 a.m. and asked the offduty officer working as a security guard, Robert D. Sanderson, to investigate.
Sanderson, 35, apparently took the full force of the blast as he bent to inspect the device. His body, peppered with nails, was hurled from near the door into a clump of bushes.
Lyons also was thrown from the entrance. She lost her left eye and underwent nine hours of surgery for extensive injuries to her face, legs and abdomen, authorities reported.
Lyons’s husband, Jeff, issued a statement from his suburban home that said the responsibilities of his wife, a mother of two, included ensuring that “a woman making the choice to have an abortion had no regrets.”
“If a woman was not absolutely sure of her decision, Emily would ask that they leave and rethink their decision,” he said. “As such, she has saved more unborn children than the protesters who have picketed the clinic. Yet, she is a firm believer in a woman’s right to make a choice.”
While officials from leading antiabortion groups denounced the bombing, a different view came from one protester who arrived at the scene shortly after the explosion rocked the downtown area. “I don’t like to see anybody die, but they’re in a business of death,” Jeff Dykes told the Birmingham News.
Michele Wilson, coordinator for Alabama For Choice and a leader of the Birmingham Clinic Defense Team, which escorts patients to and from the clinic and the nearby Summit Medical Center clinic, said the constant presence of protesters outside the clinics create a “context for violence.”