Tag Archives: Colorado Springs

Planned Parenthood suspect: ‘I am a warrior for the babies’

The man accused of killing three people in an attack on a Colorado Planned Parenthood clinic defied his own defense attorney in court, declaring himself a “warrior for the babies” who would not be silenced by the lawyer tasked with potentially saving his life.

Robert Dear, 57, repeatedly interrupted public defender Daniel King and accused him of seeking a gag order in the case to conceal what Dear portrayed as Planned Parenthood’s crimes that led to the Nov. 27 assault. The conflict added a new level of turmoil to a politically charged case that has already sparked debate about when political speech becomes a call for violence.

“You’ll never know what I saw in that clinic,” a bearded, unkempt and shackled Dear yelled on Wednesday in one of more than a dozen outbursts as King successfully argued for the gag order by contending that public discussion of the investigation could prejudice potential jurors. “Atrocities. The babies. That’s what they want to seal.” A deputy squeezed Dear’s shoulder in an effort to quiet him.

King appeared to be trying to follow the same playbook he used in his defense of Colorado theater shooter James Holmes, whom he convinced a jury earlier this year to spare from execution on the grounds of his mental illness. But, as Dear was formally charged with 179 counts of first-degree murder, attempted murder and other crimes that could lead to the death penalty, he was having none of it.

“Do you know who this lawyer is?” Dear exclaimed of King. “He’s the lawyer for the Batman shooter. Who drugged him all up. And that’s what they want to do to me.”

Holmes was on anti-psychotic medication this year during his trial for the 2012 shootings that killed 12 people and wounded 70. He was sentenced to life in prison.

“Seal the truth, huh? Kill the babies. That’s what Planned Parenthood does,” Dear yelled later. At another point, he snapped at King: “You’re trying silence me.” Then he said: “Let’s let it all come out. Truth!”

King did not directly address the outbursts, though at one point during a break he leaned over to Dear and said: “I know what you’re trying to do; it’s not going to work.” King raised doubts about whether Dear is competent to stand trial, saying defense attorneys wanted investigators to turn over evidence as soon as possible so they could assess the “depth of his mental illness.”

Colorado Springs police have refused to discuss a potential motive in the Nov. 27 attack, which wounded nine and killed three. But even before Wednesday’s startling outbursts, there was mounting evidence that Dear was deeply concerned about abortion.

He rambled to authorities  about “no more baby parts” after his arrest. And a law enforcement official told The Associated Press this week that Dear asked at least one person in a nearby shopping center for directions to the clinic before opening fire. The official was not authorized to publicly discuss the investigation and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

On Wednesday, Dear interjected as Judge Gilbert A. Martinez discussed a pretrial publicity order, saying, “Could you add the babies that were supposed to be aborted that day? Could you add that to the list?”

At one point, Dear yelled simply, “Protect babies!”

Later, he accused his attorneys of being in “cahoots” with Planned Parenthood to “shut me up.”

“I want the truth to come out. There’s a lot more to this than for me to go silently to the grave,” he shouted.

Dear has lived in remote locations without electricity or running water and was known to hold survivalist ideas.

One of his three ex-wives, Barbara Mescher Micheau of Moncks Corner, South Carolina, said he vandalized a South Carolina abortion clinic at least 20 years earlier, announcing to her that he had put glue in the locks of its doors, a common protest technique among activists trying to shut down abortion clinics.

Killed in the attack were Garrett Swasey, 44, a University of Colorado-Colorado Springs officer who rushed to the scene; Ke’Arre Stewart, 29, an Iraq war veteran who was accompanying someone at the clinic; and Jennifer Markovsky, 35, who also accompanied a friend at the clinic.

Five other officers were shot and wounded in the rampage.

Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers said Monday that responding officers rescued 24 people from inside the clinic building and helped remove 300 people from surrounding businesses where they had been hiding while the shooting unfolded.

Martinez set the next hearing for Dear for Dec. 23. A first-degree murder conviction can lead to life in prison or the death penalty.

At the end of Wednesday’s hearing, the judge looked at Dear and said, “Are you finished?”

Was the Planned Parenthood shooting an act of political terrorism?

The man accused of killing three people at a Colorado Planned Parenthood clinic brought several guns, ammunition and propane tanks that officials say he assembled around a car.

For hours, he holed up inside the clinic, unleashing a fusillade that wounded nine people and sent shoppers scattering inside surrounding buildings during a standoff with police.

To some in the community, the attack resembled an act of domestic terrorism, sparking a debate over what to call Robert Lewis Dear’s rampage even before he was taken into custody.

But the legal system may not resolve that question.

Dear faces state charges of first-degree murder, and the federal criminal code has no specific, catchall charge for acts of domestic terrorism. That means federal prosecutors pursuing charges for ideologically motivated violence often turn to other statutes — such as those for firearms, explosives, hate crimes or murder — to cover offenses that could arguably be labeled as terror. The punishment may be the same, but generally without the branding more often associated with international terrorism.

“There has long been some interest in defining acts of domestic terrorism as terrorism. It’s become quite a partisan issue,” said William Yeomans, a former high-ranking official in the Justice Department’s civil rights division.

But given the number of laws already available to federal prosecutors, he added, “Whether it’s domestic terrorism or not, it doesn’t really matter.”

Police have not yet detailed a motive in the killings of one police officer and two civilians at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, though a law enforcement official said Dear said “no more baby parts” during rambling comments after his arrest.

Dear used a rifle in the shooting and also brought other firearms and ammunition, according to an official familiar with the case who was not authorized to talk publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper has called the killings a “form of terrorism,” and Planned Parenthood has said witnesses believe the gunman was motivated by opposition to abortion. But Dear also has been described by acquaintances as a loner who once gave neighbors anti-Obama literature but never any indication he would target a clinic.

A coalition of advocacy groups is calling on the Justice Department, which is reviewing the case, to investigate violence against abortion clinics as domestic terrorism. Federal authorities have the option of filing their own charges but haven’t yet said whether they will do so. Among the federal government’s potential avenues is a 1994 law known as the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, which makes it a crime to injure or intimidate abortion clinic patients and employees.

Federal law defines domestic terrorism as dangerous acts that take place inside the U.S. that are intended to intimidate the public or coerce government policy or conduct — a description meant to encompass, among others, anti-government anarchists, white supremacists and animal-rights activists.

But without one all-encompassing statute, the actual charges can vary.

In the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, for instance, Timothy McVeigh faced charges including conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction, malicious destruction of federal property and the murders of law enforcement officials. A Florida man in 2012 was sentenced to 10 years in prison on charges of arson and damaging a reproductive health facility after firebombing an abortion clinic.

While the Justice Department consistently charges individuals who look to join organizations like the Islamic State with providing material support for a foreign terror organization, there’s no comparable statute for prosecuting domestic crimes motivated by extremist ideologies and no catchall “domestic terrorism” charge or offense in the federal criminal code.

That lack of clarity can make it hard to count the number of domestic terror prosecutions, or differentiate that crime from other illegal activity, according to a 2013 Congressional Research Service report.

“Individuals considered to be domestic terrorists by federal law enforcement may be charged under nonterrorism statutes, making it difficult to grasp from the public record exactly how extensive this threat is,” the report said.

The issue arose in July when the Justice Department brought federal hate crime charges against Dylann Roof in the massacre a month earlier at a black church in Charleston, South Carolina.

Asked at a news conference about the absence of domestic terrorism charges, Attorney General Loretta Lynch replied, “Well, as you know, there is no specific domestic terrorism statute.” But she did describe hate crimes as “the original domestic terrorism.”

The Justice Department in the last year has paid added public attention to the domestic terrorism threat. Last year, it revived a domestic terrorism executive committee that had fallen into disuse after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks as the government shifted focus to international terrorism. More recently, officials appointed a domestic terrorism counsel to coordinate the flow of information.

Heidi Beirich, director of the intelligence project at the Southern Poverty Law Center, said Dear “should be charged with crimes that take him away forever” and that the federal government has many tools to do just that.

But, she added, “I think it’s very important for the government to call a terrorist, a terrorist. I think a reluctance to do that is a terrible thing.”

Colorado gunman: ‘No more baby parts’

“No more baby parts.”

Those were the words terrorist Robert Lewis Dear spoke to a law-enforcement official on Nov. 28 shortly after he was taken into custody for allegedly staging a long and deadly shooting attack on a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood Clinic.

The official could not elaborate about the comment and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to speak publicly about the ongoing investigation.

Afer a long, brutal standoff on a snowy afternoon during which portions of Colorado Springs were on lockdown, those words seemed to answer at least one question about the incident in which 12 citizens and police officers were shot and three, including a police officer, killed: Why?

Witnesses to the shooting have also told media sources and Planned Parenthood staff that the shooter was clearly motivated by opposition to choice.

At a vigil held at All Souls Unitarian Church on the evening of the shootings, the Rev. Nori Rost called the gunman a “domestic terrorist.” In the back of the room, someone held a sign that said: “Women’s bodies are not battlefields. Neither is our town.”

Vicki Cowart, the regional head of Planned Parenthood, drew a standing ovation when she walked to the pulpit and promised to quickly reopen the clinic. “We will adapt. We will square our shoulders and we will go on,” she said.

Cowart also said that all 15 clinic employees survived and worked hard to make sure everyone else got into safe spaces and stayed quiet.

Demonstrating the divisiveness of the issue even in friendly territory, after Cowart’s remarks, a woman in the audience stood up, objected to the vigil becoming a “political statement” and left.

The Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood clinic, like virtually all of the group’s clinics, has long been the site of regular anti-abortion protests. Colorado Springs is home to a very large population of born-again Christians. The anti-gay hate group Focus on the Family is headquartered there.

A Roman Catholic priest who’s held weekly Mass in front of the clinic for 20 years, distanced himself from Dear, saying that he wasn’t part of his group. “I don’t know him from Adam,” said Rev. Bill Carmody. “I don’t recognize him at all.”

The public might learn more about Dear’s motives on Monday, when he makes his first court appearance. Officially, police have not yet presented a motive to the public, although it seemed obvious. As Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers put it, people can make “inferences from where (the shooting) took place.”

Planned Parenthood has been under increased physical and verbal attacks since July, when an undercover video released by anti-choice activists appeared to show PP personnel negotiating the sale of fetal organs. It was later determined that the video had been misleadingly edited. The truth is that the group only recouped preservation and shipping charges for fetal tissue that women ending their pregnancies asked to have donated to science, which is legal. Since the controversy, however, Planned Parenthood has taken the extra step of no longer recouping costs but rather paying the associated costs on its own.

Dears’ comment about “baby parts” likely refers to the controversial video.

Fetal tissue research has been responsible for some of the greatest medical treatment achievements of the last several decades, including the development of a polio vaccine.

In the wake of the killings, David Daleiden, who heads the Center for Medical Progress, the group that released the manipulated videotapes of Planned Parenthood, said he opposed the violence.

“The Center for Medical Progress condemns the barbaric killing spree in Colorado Springs by a violent madman. We applaud the heroic efforts of law enforcement to stop the violence quickly and rescue the victims, and our thoughts and prayers are with the wounded, the lost, and their families,” Daleiden said in a statement.

No wrongdoing

Multiple investigations in red states have uncovered no wrongdoing on PP’s part in charging storage and transportation fees for fetal tissue. But that hasn’t stopped politicians, especially GOP presidential candidates, from invoking the tapes often on the campaign trail in an effort to draw the support of fundamentalist Christian voters, who likely will determine the winner of the first-in-the-nation nominating caucuses in Iowa in February.

Demonizing rhetoric about Planned Parenthood has become a sure-fire way to inspire cheers and applause at conservative Republican events.

Eager to get in on that action, Republicans in Congress, who have a 9 percent approval rating among their own party’s voters, staged a Congressional hearing on the tapes to rally conservative support. That investigation, too, found no wrongdoing.

“We demand an end to the incendiary rhetoric from anti-abortion activists and lawmakers that demonizes Planned Parenthood doctors and patients,” said Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “The smear campaign and false accusations that motivated the attack in Colorado Springs must stop.”

Following the shooting, Ted Cruz was the first GOP presidential candidate to offer condolences to the loved ones of the victims.  

At a campaign stop, Cruz responded angrily to a reporter’s question linking Dear with the anti-choice movement, according to the Texas Tribune

“It’s also been reported that (Dear) was registered as an independent and a woman and a transgendered leftist activist,” Cruz shot back. “If that’s what he is, I don’t think it’s fair to blame on the rhetoric on the left. This is a murderer.”

Cruz is heavily backed by some of the nation’s most extreme anti-choice activists.

Ironically, although Cruz took exception to what he called attempts by the left to use the shooting to taint all abortion foes, he and others on the right have pointed to the terrorist attacks in Paris to denounce President Obama’s plans to allow Syrian refugees to settle in the United States — despite the lack of evidence that any Syrians participated in those attacks.

In recent months, as right-wing candidates and officials have tried to make political gains off the discredited tapes, the National Abortion Federation, an association of service providers, has seen a rise in threats at clinics nationwide. In a statement to Media Matters, NARAL president Ilyse Hogue suggested that all the anti-choice rhetoric quoted recently in the media and on display at GOP presidential debates and appearances was fueling the violence.

She wrote: “Instead of treating these (attacks on clinics) as the real and present danger to innocent civilians that they are, Congress is inviting anti-abortion extremists to testify at hearings, the Department of Justice has yet to announce a full investigation, and the news media remains silent. Where is the outrage?”

Since September, there have been four attempted arsons at Planned Parenthood clinics across the nation, three of which have caused significant damage.

At least eight murders of doctors and workers at abortion clinics have occurred in the United States since 1990. Since 1977, there have been 41 bombings and 173 arsons at clinics.

In recent years, the Republican Party has made it a top legislative priority to whittle away at abortion rights in the U.S., with the ultimate goal of overturning Roe v Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision making it legal for a woman to determine whether to have a baby.

Wisconsin, where Republicans are in control of every facet of state government, including the Supreme Court, is at the vanguard of those efforts. Gov. Scott Walker recently appointed Rebecca Bradley, a strong opponent to choice, to the Wisconsin Supreme Court, even though her career as a judge began less than four years ago, when he first appointed her to the bench.

Wisconsin has adopted among the most stringent anti-choice laws in the nation.

The U.S. Supreme Court recently agreed to review a Wisconsin law requiring abortion providers to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. The law, which does not benefit women’s health due to the extreme rarity of complications and the nearby availability of other hospitals to handle any such cases if they arose, was found unconstitutional by a federal appeals court panel.

The Wisconsin case centers on a lawsuit filed by Planned Parenthood and Affiliated Medical Services. The groups argue that the 2013 law amounts to an unconstitutional restriction on abortion.

Only about 3 percent of services provided by Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin involve ending pregnancies. The organization provides a variety of sexual health services for poor women, including PAP smears, STD and breast screenings, contraceptive services and prenatal care.

AP contributed to this report.

Response to the shooting from Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America

To those who go to unimaginable extremes to close our doors:

We deplore your violence.

We reject your threats.

We fight your legislation to limit reproductive rights and health care in every corner of our country.

We believe your actions and words hurt women — whether by making it impossible to seek health care or by creating a climate of disrespect and hostility that fosters extremist violence.

We demand an end to the incendiary rhetoric from anti-abortion activists and lawmakers that demonizes Planned Parenthood doctors and patients. The smear campaign and false accusations that motivated the attack in Colorado Springs must stop.

We aren’t going anywhere. Planned Parenthood has been here for nearly 100 years, and we will keep being here as long as women, men, and young people need health care with dignity.

To those who go to shocking extremes to close our doors, know this:

These doors stay open.

Click here to contribute to Planned Parenthood

See also Gunman had been charged with animal cruelty, domestic abuse



Alleged Colorado shooter had been charged with animal abuse, domestic violence

A profile is emerging of the gunman in custody for a shootout yesterday in which three people were killed and nine injured at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs.

Armed with a military assault weapon, Robert Lewis Dear, 57, allegedly held police at bay for hours during a snowy afternoon shootout that started without warning.

Bearded, tall, stocky and wild-eyed, Dear reportedly had a history of run-ins with the law, including for domestic violence and animal abuse. People who lived near Dear said he frequently handed out anti-Obama literature but his ideology was hard to fathom due to the incoherent nature of his ramblings.

The Daily Beast obtained records from the Colleton County Sheriff’s Office in South Carolina, where Dear was a longtime resident with a lengthy history of incident reports. Those included domestic battery, threatening and spying on neighbors, abusing animals and making unwanted advances toward a female neighbor.

Neighbors who lived beside Dear’s former South Carolina home in Walterboro told AP that he hid food in the woods as if he was a survivalist and said he lived off selling prints of his uncle’s paintings of Southern plantations and the Masters golf tournament.

John Hood said Saturday that when he moved to Walterboro, Dear was living in a doublewide mobile home next door. Hood said Dear seemed to be a loner and very strange but not dangerous. He pointed to a wooden fence separating their land and said he put it up because Dear liked to skinny dip.

Hood said that Dear rarely talked and, when he did, he tended to offer unsolicited advice such as recommending that Hood put a metal roof on his house so the U.S. government couldn’t spy on him.

“He was really strange and out there, but I never thought he would do any harm,” he said.

Dear also lived part-time in North Carolina, spending part of his time in a cabin in Black Mountain with no electricity or running water.

He tended to avoid eye contact, said James Russell, who lived a few hundred feet down the mountain from Dear’s cabin. “If you talked to him, nothing with him was very cognitive,” Russell said.

Other neighbors knew Dear too, but they didn’t want to give their names to AP because they said they were scared of him.

Russell and others said the only companion they saw with him was a mangy dog that looked to be in such bad shape they called animal control because they worried he was beating it.

Following the shootout, law enforcement officials closed off an address for Dear in what the Daily Beast called “the remote town” of Hartsel, Colorado, about 60 miles west of Colorado Springs.

There, about a dozen police vehicles and fire trucks were parked today outside a small white trailer belonging to Dear located on a sprawling swath of land, AP reported. Property records indicate Dear purchased the land about a year ago.

An official said authorities searched the trailer but found no explosives. The official, who has direct knowledge of the case, said authorities also talked with a woman who was living in the trailer. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to speak publicly about the ongoing investigation.

Jamie Heffelman, owner of the Highline Cafe in Hartsel, said residents would occasionally see the 6-foot-4-inch, 250-pound Dear at the post office to get his mail but he never said much.

“Nobody really knows him. He stays to himself,” she said.

Planned Parenthood under constant fire

Police have not disclosed a motive, but Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers said people can make “inferences from where it took place,” referring to the clinic.

A Roman Catholic priest who has held weekly Mass in front of the clinic for 20 years, however, told The Associated Press that Dear wasn’t part of his group. Anti-choice groups picket PP clinics every day, carrying signs of bloody babies and dolls and accosting women entering the premises with dire warnings.

Planned Parenthood has been under increased attack since July — from Congress to state legislatures to the Republican campaign trail — over an undercover video made by virulent anti-choice activists and released to the press. The video appeared to show PP personnel negotiating the sale of fetal organs, but later it was determined that the piece had been misleadingly edited.

Investigations by states and Congress found no wrongdoing in connection with PP’s handling of fetal tissue. Instead, it was learned that PP and other abortion clinics allow pregnant women to donate their fetal tissue to researchers if they wish, and the researchers pay for the cost of maintaining and transporting the tissue.

Still, the National Abortion Federation, an association of service providers, has seen a rise in threats at clinics nationwide since the video’s release. Republican presidential candidates have made it a central issue in their campaigns.

Arsonists have attacked four PP clinics since September.

At a vigil Saturday at All Souls Unitarian Church, Rev. Nori Rost called the gunman a “domestic terrorist.” In the back of the room, someone held a sign that said: “Women’s bodies are not battlefields. Neither is our town.”

Vicki Cowart, the regional head of Planned Parenthood, drew a standing ovation when she walked to the pulpit. She promised to quickly reopen the clinic. “We will adapt. We will square our shoulders and we will go on,” she said.

Cowart told AP that the gunman “broke in” to the clinic Friday but didn’t get past a locked door leading to the main part of the facility. She said there was no armed security when the shooting began.

In the parking lot of the two-story building, one man said the gunman shot at him as he pulled his car out, blasting two holes in his windshield. Inside, one worker ducked under a table and called her brother to tell him to take care of her kids if she was killed.

At one point, an officer whispered reports into his radio as he crept through the building. Others relayed information from surveillance cameras and victims in hiding. “We’ve got a report of a victim texting from just east of the lobby,” someone said.

In the end, a six-year veteran University of Colorado police officer was killed. Two civilians also died, though their identities weren’t immediately released. Five other officers and four people were hospitalized.

Cowart said all 15 clinic employees survived and worked hard to make sure everyone else got into safe spaces and stayed quiet.

The attack marked the latest mass shooting to stun the nation, and drew the now-familiar questions about a gunman’s motives and whether anyone, from government to relatives, could have done anything to prevent an attack.

President Obama issued a statement today calling for gun control.

“If we truly care about this — if we’re going to offer up our thoughts and prayers again, for God knows how many times, with a truly clean conscience — then we have to do something about the easy accessibility of weapons of war on our streets to people who have no business wielding them,” Obama said.

Colorado Springs is home to a very large population of born-again Christians. The anti-gay hate group Focus on the Family is headquartered there.

Gunman apparently holed up at Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado

[UPDATE] NBC News is reporting that the gunman turned himself in to police at about 6 p.m. CST after the hours-long shootout.

At this hour, there is an ongoing shooting incident inside a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs.

At a press conference about half an hour ago, Colorado Springs Police Department spokeswoman Lt. Catherine Buckley said the scene is still active and officers have not established voice contact with the suspect. People are being evacuated from the Planned Parenthood building. 

There appear to be concerns there are explosives planted in the vicinity.

Buckley said the suspect brought unknown items into the building with him and left others outside. Police, however, can’t go inside the building to investigate until the scene is stable.

Buckley confirmed that the shooter targeted only the clinic and not surrounding businesses, but nearby buildings remain in lockdown.

Planned Parenthood gave a statement earlier today to Think Progress that said: “We don’t yet know the full circumstances and motives behind this criminal action, and we don’t yet know if Planned Parenthood was in fact the target of this attack. We share the concerns of many Americans that extremists are creating a poisonous environment that feeds domestic terrorism in this country. We will never back away from providing care in a safe, supportive environment that millions of people rely on and trust.”

People in the area heard shots shortly before noon Central Standard Time. Some witnesses saw an officer hit, according to The Associated Press, CNN and other media sources.

Local officials said 11 wounded people were taken to medical facilities in the area, but details about their injuries were not immediately available. At least four of the victims were responding police officers.

Joan Motolinia told AP that his sister Jennifer called him while she was hiding behind a table inside the clinic, and he could hear a lot of gunshots in the background.

“She was telling me to take care of her babies because she could get killed,” Motolinia said of the mother of three.

Motolinia rushed to the clinic after getting off the phone and was frustrated because a police barricade kept him from getting close to the building.

“People were shooting for sure. I heard someone shooting. There was a lot of gunfire. She was calm she was trying to hide from those people,” he said.

Advocates of women’s rights have worried that the demonizing rhetoric Republican candidates have used this year against women’s health and abortion clinics would result in domestic terrorism.

At least eight murders of doctors and workers at abortion clinics have occurred in the United States since 1990. Since 1977, there have been 41 bombings and 173 arsons at clinics.

In recent years, the Republican Party has made it a top legislative priority to whittle away at abortion rights in the U.S., with the ultimate goal of overturning Roe v Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that made it legal for a woman to determine whether to have a baby. Wisconsin, where Republicans are in control of every facet of state government, including the Supreme Court, is at the vanguard of those efforts.

Gov. Scott Walker recently appointed Rebecca Bradley, a strong opponent to choice, to the Wisconsin Supreme Court — even though her career as a judge began less than four years ago, when he first appointed her to the bench.

One of Wisconsin’s anti-abortion laws was struck down by a Reagan-appointed federal judge and is now headed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Hate dollars down

The anti-gay hate group Focus on the Family announced Sept. 16 that it’s eliminating 49 jobs in the latest of several rounds of layoffs. The Colorado Springs group had a $105 million budget this fiscal year ending Sept. 30, but officials project it will receive donations of only $90 million to $95 million. The new 7 percent staff reduction brings the group’s total number of employees to 650, down from a 2002 peak of 1,400 people. In the last few years, Focus has let go almost 500 workers.

Focus on the Family lays off more people

The anti-gay hate group Focus on the Family announced Sept. 16 that it’s eliminating 49 jobs in the latest of several rounds of layoffs, reports Denver Post.

The Colorado Springs group had a $105 million budget this fiscal year ending Sept. 30, but officials project it will receive donations of only $90 million to $95 million.

The new 7-percent staff reduction brings the group’s total number of employees down to 650, down from a 2002 peak of 1,400 people. In the last few years, Focus has let go almost 500 workers.

The primary mission of Focus on the Family is to oppose LGBT rights. FOF was branded a hate group last year by the Southern Poverty Law Center for perpetuating false stereotypes designed to demonize gays. The group operates a hate radio program that has an estimated two million listeners.

FOF vice president Gary Schneeberger tried to put a positive spin on the latest cutbacks, blaming them on tough economic times instead of reduced support

“God has never promised us a certain budget number. We’re sad today but not distraught about the future,” he said in a statement. “Even in these bad economic times people who care about the ministry gave us more than $90 million. We’ve been able to help tens of thousands of families with their marriages, raising their kids and walking in their faith. Our commitment to that mission is unabated.”

Homeless men say anti-gay slurs made before attack

For the second time in less than a month, Colorado Springs police are investigating an assault in which the victims say anti-gay slurs were made.

Two homeless men told police that two men made anti-gay slurs before stabbing them. The incident follows one in which at least one person reported he was beaten because the assailants believed he was gay.

Police are investigating the attack that occurred July 3 outside a restaurant.

Police Sgt. Steve Noblitt said the stabbings aren’t being investigated as a hate crime. He says the motive could be the growing friction between transients squatting in vacant homes and area residents.

Two Colorado Springs men were arrested in the attack. The homeless men were treated for their injuries.

– from AP

Soldiers brutally beaten in apparent anti-gay hate crime

Two soldiers were ambushed and badly beaten outside of a Colorado Springs restaurant early July 2 in an apparent anti-gay attack.

One of the victims, who is stationed at Fort Carson, told News First 5 that he and another soldier were at a fast-food restaurant with a friend when a group of men and women took issue with their clothing. The soldier used only the name “Chris” to protect his identity.

“We walked in and immediately one black male started making remarks like, ‘faggot,’” Chris said. The soldiers decided to leave and headed for the parking lot.

“I turn around and my friend was getting stomped by six black males,” the victim said. “Another female friend of mine was trying to fight off three or four men.”

Chris’ friend’s jaw was shattered and had to be wired shut.

The Advocate reported that the victims are keeping their identities secret because the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy is still in effect.

“I don’t need people higher up knowing,” a victim identified as Ted said. “I still have to protect myself as far as on the military side.”

Several media reports have said local law-enforcement is investigating the incident as a possible hate crime, because the assailants used racist and anti-gay slurs.