June 8, 2009 in Nation/World

Shooting suspect claims larger scheme

Justice Department taking threat seriously
Roxana Hegeman Associated Press
 

WICHITA, Kan. – The man charged with murdering a high-profile abortion doctor claimed from his jail cell Sunday that similar violence was planned around the nation for as long as the procedure remained legal, a threat that comes days after a federal investigation into his possible accomplices was launched.

A Justice Department spokesman said the threat was being taken seriously and additional protection had been ordered for abortion clinics last week. But a leader of the anti-abortion movement derided the accused shooter as “a fruit and a lunatic.”

Scott Roeder called the Associated Press from the Sedgwick County Jail, where he’s being held on charges of first-degree murder and aggravated assault in the shooting of Dr. George Tiller one week ago.

“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 what he meant and if he was referring to another shooting, he refused to elaborate further.

It wasn’t clear whether Roeder knew of any impending violence or whether he was simply seeking publicity for his cause. Law enforcement authorities including the Justice Department said they didn’t know whether the threat was credible.

Tiller’s clinic in Wichita was among only a few in the U.S. that perform third-trimester abortions. He was shot while serving as an usher at the Lutheran church he attended.

Justice Department spokesman Matthew Miller said in a written statement Sunday that “we take this matter seriously, which is why the Attorney General ordered increased protection of appropriate people and facilities last week.”

Tiller’s clinic had been a target of regular demonstrations by abortion opponents. Most were peaceful, but his clinic was bombed in 1986 and he was shot in both arms in 1993.

Troy Newman, president of the anti-abortion group Operation Rescue, read about Roeder’s statement and e-mailed the Associated Press, saying: “This guy is a fruit and a lunatic.”

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