By Keith Coffman
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Reuters) – The moment a receptionist heard gunfire & an "intruder" burst into the Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, the well-drilled staff immediately activated lockdown procedures, the organization's local president said on Saturday.
None of more than a dozen employees who were working throughout the building were injure in Friday's attack, which left three people including a police officer dead. Nine people, including five other police officers, were wounded.
p> Staff at the center, which has in the past been the target of anti-abortion protests, took steps they had been taught including silencing their cellphones. Managers moreover put word out to colleagues not to call those in the building in case any telephones would still ring.
"This is a community that's been under attack," Vicki Cowart, president & chief executive of Planned Parenthood's Rocky Mountain chapter, told Reuters, referring to her organization.
"That is what we're trained to do," she said after speaking at a church vigil for victims of the rampage. "We place the safety of our patients & staff above all else."
The gunman, named on Saturday as 57-year-old Robert Lewis Dear, surrendered to officers after an hours-long standoff under steadily falling snow. Police have not discussed his motives.
Authorities have said he was armed with a rifle when he entered the clinic & opened fire shortly before noon.
Police & sheriff's deputies exchanged gunfire with the suspect inside the building as authorities tracked their movements from room to room by watching live video feeds from security cameras within the clinic.
Asked at a news conference approximately conflicting reports as to whether the shooting began inside or outside the clinic, Colorado Springs Police Chief Peter Carey said he could not comment on that because the incident is under investigation.
Planned Parenthood's Cowart said she did not know if the dead civilians were patients or visitors at the clinic. Their names have not been released.
"This was a terrifying afternoon for everyone," she said.
Cowart told a packed vigil at the All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church that the 15 employees who were working that day were safe & with their families, & that the attack would not deter the organization.
"We will adapt. We still square our shoulders & we will move on. We will show up for work on Monday," she said. She was applauded by the attendees, who sang Amazing Grace.
An overflow crowd spilled into an area outside the main hall where members of the congregation sat at tables writing sympathy notes pertaining to the victims.
One man held a homemade placard that read: "Women's bodies are not battlefields. Neither is our town."
At least eight abortion clinic workers have been killed since 1977, according to the National Abortion Federation, most recently in 2009 when abortion doctor George Tiller was shot & killed at a church in Wichita, Kansas.
It said that clinics operated by various groups reported nearly 7,000 incidents of trespassing, vandalism, arson, death threats, & other forms of violence since 1977.
Police Chief Carey said his department had held conversations approximately security with Planned Parenthood prior to Friday's shooting, "as is the case with many of our bigger organizations in the city."
He said such discussions were intended to develop site plans & provide suggestions to make their operations safer.
"I don't know of any specific threats that I can discuss right now from that organization, yet we've had some conversations in the past with them," Carey said.
(Reporting by Keith Coffman; Additional reporting Daniel Wallis Writing by Daniel Wallis; Editing by Toni Reinhold)
Society & CultureCrime & JusticePlanned ParenthoodCOLORADO SPRINGS