COLORADO SPRINGS, Co. — The police officer who was killed during a shooting at a Colorado Planned Parenthood Friday was a pro-life co-pastor at an evangelical church, reports state.
Garrett Swasey, 44 and a married father of two, has served for seven years at Hope Chapel in Colorado Springs. He spent six of those years on the police force of the University of Colorado.
“Here’s a guy who worked full time as a police officer, and then gave a great amount of time to his local church and didn’t get a dime for it,” co-pastor Scott Dontanville told reporters. “He did it because it was the thing that he felt he needed to do.”
A biography on the Hope Chapel website outlines that Swasney provided oversight to the congregation’s Care Groups, and spent time “sharing his teaching gift as part of the teaching team and sharing his guitar skills on the worship team.” He had preached to the congregation the Sunday before last, as well as the week prior.
Members of the church gathered at the Swasey home Friday night after learning of his death, at which time Swasey’s wife Rachel had to break the news to the couple’s young children.
“She had to tell her kids that their daddy wasn’t coming home,” elder Kurt Aichele told reporters.
As previously reported, gunshots were reported at the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood after 11:30 a.m. local time Friday, as the suspect, who has yet to be identified, began shooting at police from the parking lot. He then entered the building and continued firing at law enforcement.
Approximately two dozen people were inside the building when the incident occurred, and police used an armored vehicle to rescue those being held inside. After an hours-long standoff, just before 5 p.m. local time, authorities persuaded the gunman to surrender.
Police released the name of the shooter on Saturday, along with this mugshot. Robert Dear, 59, of North Carolina has been booked at the El Paso County Jail without bail, and will appear in court on Monday. He has had several past run-ins with the law, but was either found not guilty or the charges were dropped. He had been accused over a decade ago of cruelty to animals and eavesdropping.
There is no word as of yet as to why Dear was in Colorado on Friday. He is cooperating with investigators.
Lt. Catherine Buckley told reporters Friday night that there are a lot of questions surrounding the incident, as “[w]e do not know about this person’s mentality or ideology.” There are also unconfirmed reports that the shooting might have begun at another location before it moved to the Planned Parenthood facility.
Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains also acknowledged that “[w]e 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.”
Two civilians lost their lives in the incident, in addition to Officer Swasey, and nine others suffered non-life-threatening injuries. Planned Parenthood said that none of their patrons or staff were injured.