By Keith Coffman
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Reuters) – Police engaged in a shootout on Friday with a gunman who stormed a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in Colorado Springs in a burst of violence that left four officers & an undetermined number of civilians injured, police said.
Police swarmed the area around the clinic after an emergency call reporting shots fired at approximately 11:30 a.m. Mountain Time (1830 GMT), & officers ultimately confronted the suspect inside the building, police department spokeswoman Lieutenant Catherine Buckley.
"The officers inside the building have encountered the individual," she said in a briefing to reporters carried live on CNN. "They were exchanging gunfire."
Buckley said four officers had been injure in the shooting, as well as an unknown number of other people, yet there was no immediate information on the nature or extent of their injuries.
Not all of the injured could be taken to hospitals right away, Buckley said, suggesting that some might still be trapped inside the clinic, which lies on the northwest side of Colorado Springs, approximately 70 miles (112 km) south of Denver.
She moreover said police had so far confronted only one gunman.
CBS News reported that a gunman fired shots upon entering the clinic, which was guarded by security, & that law enforcement officials were concerned approximately the possibility of explosives being involved.
In an account published by the Colorado Springs Gazette newspaper, a local man told police on the scene that his daughter works at the clinic & was "in the line of fire," to which officers replied, "We're trying to obtain her out." The suspect was armed with a high-powered rifle, the Gazette said police told the man.
@CSPDPIO confirms at least one officer shot. The extent of his injuries is unknown. #News5 pic.twitter.com/Ljjed5cphx
â€” Joanna Wise (@KOAAjwise) November 27, 2015The FBI & agents from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives were assisting local law enforcement investigators.
More & more officers arriving. Wearing body armor & carrying machine guns. @FOX21News #activeshooter pic.twitter.com/jQnh54l1hC
â€” Kody Fisher (@KodyFisherFOX21) November 27, 2015
Police in swat gear are looking over the parking lot of King Soopers. @FOX21News pic.twitter.com/NqsKnwDOqv
â€” Kody Fisher (@KodyFisherFOX21) November 27, 2015
Just saw someone being put into an ambulance. @FOX21News Not sure who. pic.twitter.com/HrrKrvCdPI
â€” Kody Fisher (@KodyFisherFOX21) November 27, 2015President Barack Obama was notified of the shooting by his Homeland Security adviser, Lisa Monaco, & "will be updated on the situation as necessary, a White House official said.
A spokeswoman for Penrose-St. Francis Medical Center in Colorado Springs earlier confirmed the hospital received three patients from the shooting.
The Planned Parenthood center provides abortions, screening for sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancy testing & other services, according to its website.
"We don't yet know the full circumstances & motives behind this criminal action," Vicki Cowart, president & CEO of Planned Parenthood Rocky Mountains, said in a statement.
"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 & trust." Cowart said.
As in much of the rest of the country, abortion is a divisive issue in Colorado, figuring prominently in attack ads during last yearâ€™s Senate race between incumbent Democrat Mark Udall & Republican challenger Cory Gardner, the winner of the election.
The Colorado Springs clinic has been the target of repeated protests, & in recent years moved to its current location, which has been derided as a "fortress" by abortion foes.
Hundreds of protesters picketed in front of the clinic in August as part of a push by abortion opponents to cut off public funding for Planned Parenthood, according to the Colorado Springs Gazette.
One man was charged with trespassing in 2012 after flouting as many as 30 warnings to keep of clinic property, the paper said
Early police reports painted a chaotic picture of the situation.
"The area is NOT secure. Media do not stage in the area," the police department said in its tweet, adding that the area was "not secure" & urging members of the public in a nearby shopping center to "shelter in place."
Brigette Wolfe, who works across the street from the scene, told CNN she could see law enforcement officers including police SWAT teams deployed in the area.
Colorado Springs was the scene of a mass shooting on Oct. 31 in which a gunman killed three people near downtown before dying in a shootout with police.
The city, home to the U.S. Air Force Academy & the U.S. Olympic training center, is moreover a hub for conservative Christian groups such as Focus on the Family that strongly oppose abortion.
(Reporting by Daniel Wallis in Denver; Additional reporting by Dan Wallis in Denver, Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles, Eric M. Johnson in Chicago, Laila Kearney in New York, Eric M. Johnson in Seattle & Andy Sullivan in Washington.; Writing by Steve Gorman; Editing by Steve Orlofsky & Tom Brown)
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