Health

Why It Matters That The Planned Parenthood Shooting Suspect Has Been Accused Of Domestic Violence

CREDIT: AP Photo/Michael Biesecker

A small shack with no electricity or running water where where Planned Parenthood clinic shooting suspect Robert Lewis Dear spent time

In the aftermath of a shooting at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood clinic that left three people dead, more details are emerging about the suspected gunman, 57-year-old Robert Lewis Dear. According to police reports, Dear has a long history of getting in trouble with law enforcement — including several instances of being accused of preying on women.

According to BuzzFeed News, Dear was interviewed by South Carolina police in 1997 after the cops responded to a domestic violence call. Dear’s wife said that he locked her out of the house and, once she gained entry, he hit her and pushed her out of window. His wife didn’t want to press charges, saying she wanted only a police record of the incident. The cops noted that she had “apparent bruises” on her body from where she said Dear pushed her in the chest.

Five years later, Dear was investigated for making “unwanted advances” toward a woman who lived in his neighborhood. Dear’s neighbor Lynn Roberts and her husband reported he was hiding in the bushes by their house. Roberts said that he was “leering” at her on a “regular basis”; court records show that she eventually filed a restraining order against him in July 2002.

Dear has also faced a handful of other investigations for allegedly abusing an animal and threatening a neighbor. The charges against him have all been dropped or dismissed.

The revelations about Dear’s previous run-ins with the law, and specifically the instances in which he allegedly harmed women, were unsurprising to some observers.

Indeed, there’s evidence that conclusively links domestic violence incidents with future violent crimes. Men who hurt their female family members often go on to hurt other people later in life. Domestic violence advocates say that’s one important reason why crimes against women — which are often difficult to push through the criminal justice system, particularly considering the fact that violence against female partners has long been considered the norm — should be taken more seriously within society as a whole.

“Men who are eventually arrested for violent acts often began with attacks against their girlfriends and wives. In many cases, the charges of domestic violence were not taken seriously or were dismissed,” activists Pamela Shifman and Salamishah Tillet wrote in the New York Times earlier this year. “With so much at stake, responding to violence against women should be a top priority for everyone.”

There’s still a lot we don’t know about Dear, his history, or his motives. Authorities have not yet been able to pinpoint a motivation for the shooting at Planned Parenthood. The mayor of Colorado Spring, John Suthers, has come the closest to suggesting that the building may have been targeted because it provides women’s health services — saying on Saturday that people can make “inferences from where it took place.”