Correction Appended: June 2, 2009
The May 31 murder of abortion doctor George Tiller, 67, has already been reconstructed in chilling detail: the threats to Good Samaritans who tried to intervene, the single shot in a Wichita, Kans., church, the wailing wife, the gunman's powder-blue getaway car decorated with a red rose an antiabortion emblem and a Jesus fish. But specifics about the suspected shooter, Scott Roeder, 51, are only just starting to emerge. Roeder had been following, and decrying, Tiller's work which included performing abortions after 21 weeks for years. Early reports on Roeder, who was taken into custody shortly after the shooting and is expected to be charged Tuesday, show a history of antiabortion, antigovernment philosophy and protest.
A native of Merriam, Kans., a Kansas City suburb.
According to a statement issued by his brother David, Roeder has suffered from bouts of mental illness. Read "George Tiller's Murder: How Will It Impact the Abortion Fight?"
In the 1990s, Roeder worked as a manufacturing assemblyman.
In April 1996, a 38-year-old Scott Roeder thought to be the same man was arrested in Topeka, Kans., after Shawnee County police stopped him for not having a proper license plate. Officers said they found bomb-making supplies in the car: ammunition, a blasting cap, a fuse cord, a 1-lb. can of gunpowder and two 9-volt batteries.
At that time, police said Roeder was part of the antigovernment Freemen group, which engaged in a three-month standoff with the FBI from a remote Montana farmhouse in 1996.
Roeder was sentenced to 24 months of probation. The conviction was overturned on appeal the next year when a higher court said the police search of his car had been illegal. Authorities have yet to confirm that the present suspect was the man in question.
Posting on the website for Operation Rescue, which included a "Tiller Watch" feature, a man identifying himself as Scott Roeder asked in 2007 whether anyone had considered going to Tiller's church to ask the doctor about his work. (Operation Rescue's president has denounced the crime, calling it a "cowardly act." The group's founder, Randall Terry, issued a statement calling Tiller a "mass murderer" whose "hands were covered with blood.") Read "Right-Wing Reactions to Tiller Murder."
Roeder reportedly subscribed to Prayer and Action News, a magazine that advocated "justifiable homicide" as a way of protesting abortion. Read "Understanding America's Shift on Abortion."
According to KMBC-TV in Kansas City, neighbors said people often came and went at Roeder's house and there were always several cars parked on the road in front.
"Bleass [sic] everyone for attending and praying in May to bring justice to Tiller and the closing of his death camp. Sometime soon, would it be feasible to organize as many people as possible to attend Tillers [sic] church (inside, not just outside) to have much more of a presence and possibly ask questions of the Pastor, Deacons, Elders and members while there? Doesn't seem like it would hurt anything but bring more attention to Tiller."
a poster identifying himself as Scott Roeder, at OperationRescue.org, in response to a scheduled vigil to "pray for an end to George R. Tiller's late-term-abortion business," May 19, 2007
"Tiller is the concentration camp 'Mengele' of our day and needs to be stopped before he and those who protect him bring judgment upon our nation."
a poster calling himself Scott Roeder, at ChargeTiller.com, Sept. 3, 2007
"I know that he believed in justifiable homicide ... I know he very strongly believed that abortion was murder and that you ought to defend the little ones, both born and unborn."
Regina Dinwiddie, who met Roeder in 1996 while picketing outside the Kansas City Planned Parenthood clinic, Kansas City Star, June 1, 2009
"I'd say he's a good ole boy, except he was just so fanatic about abortion."
Morris Wilson, former commander of the Kansas Unorganized Citizens Militia, Kansas City Star, June 1, 2009
"Scott Roeder has never been a member, contributor, or volunteer with Operation Rescue."
Operation Rescue president Troy Newman, in a statement on June 1, 2009
"Roeder is most definitely not part of the pro-life movement."
Charmaine Yoest, Americans United for Life president and CEO, U.S. News and World Report, June 1, 2009
"He was fanatic about a lot of things. I went to one of his court appearances and thought, 'This guy is dangerous.' There were a lot of red flags that came up about him."
Suzanne James, former director of victims' services for Shawnee County, where Roeder was involved with the Freemen, Kansas City Star, June 1, 2009
Due to a publishing error, the original version of this story incorrectly stated that Roeder was charged on Sunday with first-degree murder and two counts of aggravated assault. He has not yet been charged with a crime. It also stated that Operation Rescue founder Randall Terry's statement "appeared to condone the murder." In fact, it encouraged supporters to "peacefully protest" abortion.