WICHITA, Kan. - The man charged with murdering a high-profile abortion doctor claimed from his jail cell yesterday 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 launched into his possible accomplices.
A Justice Department spokesman said that the threat was being taken seriously and that additional protection had been ordered for abortion clinics last week. But a leader of the anti-abortion 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," Roeder said. He would not elaborate.
Tiller's clinic in Wichita was among only a few in the United States that perform third-trimester abortions. He was shot while serving as an usher at the Lutheran church he attended.
Asked if he shot Tiller, Roeder replied that he could not comment about that, and said that he needed to clear everything with his lawyer.
Justice Department spokesman Matthew Miller said in a written statement yesterday that "we take this matter seriously, which is why the Attorney General ordered increased protection of appropriate people and facilities last week."
Tiller's clinic had been a target of regular demonstrations by abortion opponents. Most were peaceful, but his clinic was bombed in 1986 and he was shot in both arms in 1993.
The Justice Department opened an investigation Friday to see if Roeder had accomplices. The department said that 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 conduct toward abortion providers and their patients.
An attorney for the Tiller family, Dan Monnat, said that he wasn't sure that they should be dignifying Roeder's actions with a response "every time he makes a hare-brained phone call." *