Members of the congregation who were inside the sanctuary at the time of the shooting were being kept inside the church by police, and those arriving were being ushered into the parking lot immediately after the shooting. Witnesses later were being transported downtown for interviews and other members of the congregation were slowly being released from inside the sanctuary.
Tiller has long been a focal point of protest by abortion opponents because his clinic, Women’s Health Care Services at 5701 E. Kellogg, is one of the few in the country where late-term abortions are performed.
“We are shocked at this morning’s disturbing news that Mr. Tiller was gunned down,” anti-abortion group Operation Rescue said in a statement on its Web site. “Operation Rescue has worked for years through peaceful, legal means, and through the proper channels to see him brought to justice. We denounce vigilantism and the cowardly act that took place this morning. We pray for Mr. Tiller’s family that they will find comfort and healing that can only be found in Jesus Christ.”
Protesters blockaded Tiller’s clinic during Operation Rescue’s “Summer of Mercy” protests during the summer of 1991, and Tiller was shot by Rachelle Shannon at his clinic in 1993. Tiller was wounded in both arms, and Shannon remains in prison for the shooting.
The clinic was bombed in June 1986, and was severely vandalized earlier this month. According to the Associated Press, his lawyer said wires to security cameras and outdoor lights were cut and that the vandals also cut through the roof and plugged the buildings’ downspouts. Rain poured through the roof and caused thousands of dollars of damage in the clinic. Tiller reportedly asked the FBI to investigate the incident.
Police are looking for a powder blue Taurus that fled the scene after the shooter, reportedly a white man, shot Tiller in the church lobby and ran out the door.
It’s been a long time since the abortion wars involved physical violence. Let’s hope this isn’t a comeback.