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U.S. to probe Tiller death

Justice Department will investigate whether accused gunman had help.

WASHINGTON - The Justice Department yesterday opened an investigation into the killing of Kansas abortion provider George Tiller to see whether the accused gunman had accomplices.

The department will investigate possible federal crimes in connection with Tiller's slaying last Sunday at his church in Wichita, Kan.

State prosecutors have ruled out seeking the death penalty against suspect Scott Roeder, but federal prosecutors did not rule out doing so as they announced their probe.

The Justice Department "will work tirelessly to determine the full involvement of any and all actors in this horrible crime," said Loretta King, head of the department's civil rights division.

Anyone who played a role in the killing, she said, will be prosecuted "to the full extent of federal law."

The department will seek to determine whether the killing of Tiller, 67, violated a 1994 law creating criminal penalties for violent or damaging conduct toward abortion providers and their patients.

Wichita Police Chief Norman Williams said his investigation would continue and run parallel to the federal effort.

Dan Monnat, an attorney for the Tiller family, said he welcomed "any investigation that will assist in determining all persons who encouraged or assisted this horrible act and result in their prosecution."

Roeder, 51, is charged with first-degree murder and is jailed on $5 million bond. If convicted of the state murder charge, he would face a mandatory life sentence and would not be eligible for parole for at least 25 years.

Tiller's funeral is today, and U.S. Marshals spokesman Jeff Carter said federal deputies "are committed to ensuring every individual wishing to mourn Dr. Tiller's passing can do so in a safe and secure environment."

Steve Osburn, Roeder's lawyer in the state case, had no comment on the news of the federal investigation.