Friends, mourners and supporters of the three people killed in the recent shooting spree at a Colorado Springs clinic are turning to online crowdsourcing to raise funds for the victims’ survivors.
A YouCaring account, with a $150,000 fundraising goal, is set up for 44-year-old police officer Garrett Swasey, a six-year veteran of the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs Police Department who was killed while responding to the attack. At least nine others were injured — five of whom were also police officers — but are in good condition, according to Business Insider.
Swasey leaves his wife Rachel and two children, 6-year-old daughter Faith and 10-year-old son Elijah. The police will cover Swasey’s funeral costs but the YouCaring fund was established for the education of his two children. In addition, the Aventa Credit Union established a memorial fund for his family in honor of Swasey’s service to the Colorado Springs community.
Two others killed on Nov. 27 by shooter Robert Lewis Dear, according to widespread news reports, are 36-year-old Jennifer Markovsky, a stay-at-home mother who was accompanying a friend to the clinic, and 29-year-old Ke’Arre Stewart, an Iraq War veteran who was accompanying a woman who identified herself as his girlfriend. Stewart was shot outside of the clinic but hurried back inside to warn other people of the shooter.
“He was caring, giving, funny and just a damn good person,” Stewart’s friend Amburh Butler writes on the GoFundMe page created for the victim. Stewart leaves two daughters aged 7 and 11. A fund was established to help his family with any funeral costs, including transportation since he is a Texas native, and to create a trust fund for his daughters.
Markovsky, a native of Hawaii, leaves behind her husband, a member of the U.S. Army Reserve, and two children. Her YouCaring account, with a $75,000 fundraising goal, was established to help pay for her funeral expenses and future child care needs.
On Nov. 30, Dear, the shooter, made his first court appearance via a video hearing. He is represented by public defender Daniel King, who was also the lawyer of Colorado theater shooter James Holmes.
CBS News reported that Dear had no questions for the judge when he was told about the first-degree murder charges he was facing. Judge Stephen Sletta sealed court documents regarding evidence gathered by investigators. The only publicly known clue to Dear’s motivation is his alleged mention of “no more baby parts” after his arrest.
Argument Over Role of Video
The comment has stirred Planned Parenthood officials and others to blame widely discredited undercover videos purporting to show that the organization is using fetal tissue for research purposes.
“One of the lessons of this awful tragedy is that words matter,” Planned Parenthood Federation of America Executive Vice President Dawn Laguens said in a statement on Nov. 29. “And hateful rhetoric fuels violence. It’s not enough to denounce the tragedy without also denouncing the poisonous rhetoric that fueled it,” she said. “Instead, some politicians are continuing to stroke it, which is unconscionable.”
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, a GOP presidential candidate who has been campaigning to defund Planned Parenthood, dismissed the idea that anti-abortion rhetoric played a role in spurring the violence. “We know that he [Dear] was a man who was registered to vote as a woman. The media promptly wants to blame him on the pro-life movement when at this point there is very little evidence to suggest that,” he was quoted as saying on Nov. 29 by the Huffington Post.
The violence has also sparked debate over whether the shooting is an act of terrorism. Since 1977, the National Abortion Federation said there have been eight murders, 17 attempted murders, 42 bombings, 186 arsons and thousands of incidents of criminal activities related to their cause.
Dear, a North Carolina resident, was allegedly estranged from his family members. He was likewise described by acquaintances as weird and unpredictable, according to another CBS News report.
The incident has also drawn attention to how the shooter has been characterized in the press. In its initial reporting, the New York Times described Dear as a “gentle loner,” a phrase that drew criticism from a variety of outlets. By Dec. 1, the Times, in a special report, described Dear as a gambler, serial philanderer and troubled man. In the report, a source who knew Dear said he had praised people who attacked abortion providers because they were doing “God’s work.”
Fixing Mental Health System
Citing Dear’s actions, GOP Speaker Paul Ryan rallied Congress to pass a bill to “fix” the country’s mental health system, but offered no specifics on possible remedies. “Clearly we can do more, and one common denominator in the tragedies is mental illness,” he said.
Like Cruz, Republican candidate Donald Trump brushed aside any suggestion that the fetal-tissue video incident may have spurred the attacks. Instead he placed blame squarely on the shooter, who he called a “maniac” and a “sick person.” “And I think he was probably a person ready to go. We don’t even know the purpose [of his actions],” he said in a Nov. 29 appearance on Meet the Press, where he added that there is “tremendous group of people” who think that the Planned Parenthood videos were terrible.
“And there are people extremely upset about it. It looks like you’re talking about [selling] parts to some machine or something,” added Trump.
According to public records obtained by the Gateway Pundit, Dear was registered as a woman and does not identify as Republican. He listed his party as “UAF.”
Planned Parenthood’s Laguens specifically called out GOP presidential hopefuls Trump, Cruz and Carly Fiorina for “using this tragedy to repeat false claims about Planned Parenthood.” “Instead of looking for lessons to prevent this from happening in the future, they’re doubling down on their effort to block women from getting preventive health care at Planned Parenthood,” she said.
Fiorina, who used the videos to criticize Planned Parenthood during a presidential debate, rebuffed the comment. “This is so typical of the left to immediately begin demonizing a messenger because they don’t agree with the message,” she said on Fox News Sunday. “The vast majority of Americans agree [that] what Planned Parenthood is doing is wrong.”
Stop ‘Inciting Hatred’
Lauren Chapin, an abortion rights political communications consultant, said in a tweet that right-wing pundits should stop “inciting hatred against Planned Parenthood and then washing their hands of violence.”
National Abortion Federation President and CEO Vicki Saporta said that since the “misleading” videos were released last July, they had seen an “unprecedented increase” in hate speech and threats against abortion providers. “We have been quite worried that this increase in threats would lead to a violent attack like we saw [in Colorado Springs],” she said in a Nov. 27 press statement.
“Although anti-abortion groups may condemn this type of violence when it happens, the way they target and demonize providers contributes to a culture where some feel it is justifiable to murder doctors simply because they provide women with the abortion care they need,” added Saporta.
Despite this, however, Laguens said Planned Parenthood would not stop offering its services. “Our top priority is the safety and well-being of our patients and staff. Our doors are open today, in Colorado and across the country, and nothing will deter us from providing high-quality health care to millions of people,” she said.