- The Washington Times - Monday, June 8, 2009

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) | The man charged with killing a high-profile abortion doctor claimed from his jail cell Sunday that similar violence was planned around the nation for as long as the procedure remained legal, a threat that comes days after a federal investigation was launched into his possible accomplices.

A Justice Department spokesman said the threat was being taken seriously and additional protection had been ordered for abortion clinics last week. But a leader of the pro-life movement derided the accused shooter as “a fruit and a lunatic.”

Scott Roeder called the Associated Press from the Sedgwick County jail, where he’s being held on charges of first-degree murder and aggravated assault in the shooting of Dr. George Tiller one week ago.

“I know there are many other similar events planned around the country as long as abortion remains legal,” Mr. Roeder said. He would not elaborate.

Dr. Tiller’s clinic in Wichita was among only a few in the U.S. that perform third-trimester abortions. He was shot while serving as an usher at the Lutheran church he attended.

Asked if he shot Dr. Tiller, Mr. Roeder replied that he could not comment about that and said he needed to clear everything with his attorney.

Justice Department spokesman Matthew Miller said in a written statement Sunday that “we take this matter seriously, which is why the Attorney General ordered increased protection of appropriate people and facilities last week.”

Dr. Tiller’s clinic had been a target of regular demonstrations by abortion opponents. While most were peaceful, his clinic was bombed in 1986 and he was shot in both arms in 1993. In 1991, a 45-day “Summer of Mercy” campaign organized by Operation Rescue drew thousands of abortion opponents to Wichita, and there were more than 2,700 arrests.

Jim Cross, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, did not immediately comment Sunday on Mr. Roeder’s statement.

The Justice Department opened an investigation Friday to see if the gunman who killed Dr. Tiller had accomplices. The department said its Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Kansas will investigate whether the killing violated a 1994 law creating criminal penalties for violent or damaging conduct toward abortion providers and their patients.

An attorney for the Tiller family, Dan Monnat, said he wasn’t sure they should be dignifying Mr. Roeder’s actions and threats with a response “every time he makes a hare-brained phone call.”

“I am hopeful that state and federal authorities, including Homeland Security, will give Mr. Roeder and his information a deserving response,” Mr. Monnat said, declining to elaborate.

Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, said Mr. Roeder’s comments “continue to escalate that kind of activity, that kind of violence. Quite honestly, I think it’s imperative for [anti-abortion] groups to tone down that rhetoric and keep the more extreme elements in their movement from copying Scott Roeder.”

A funeral was held Saturday for Dr. Tiller. Most anti-abortion groups avoided the service, having denounced Dr. Tiller’s shooting.

Troy Newman, president of the anti-abortion group Operation Rescue, read about Mr. Roeder’s statement and e-mailed Associated Press, saying: “This guy is a fruit and a lunatic.”

Mr. Roeder, a 51-year-old abortion opponent, was arrested a few hours after the shooting just outside Kansas City.

He told AP he refused to talk to investigators when he was arrested, and has made no statements to police since then.

“I just told them I needed to talk to my lawyer,” Mr. Roeder said.

In two separate calls to AP on Sunday morning, he was far more talkative about his treatment at the Sedgwick County jail, complaining about “deplorable conditions in solitary,” where he was kept during his first three days.

Sedgwick County Sheriff Robert Hinshaw said that Mr. Roeder is receiving appropriate medical treatment.

“It is, after all, a jail, but a modern state-of-the-art facility with professional staff,” Sheriff Hinshaw said. “While Mr. Roeder may not care for being in the Sedgwick County jail, all of our conditions and policies are designed to provide safety and security for all inmates, staff and the public at large.”

Mr. Roeder said it was freezing in his cell. “I started having a bad cough. I thought I was going to have pneumonia,” he said.

He said he called AP because he wanted to emphasize the conditions in the jail so that in the future suspects would not have to endure the same conditions.

Mr. Roeder also said he wanted the public to know he has been denied phone privileges for the past two days, and needed his sleep apnea machine.

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