Drug Recommended for Shooter Suspect at Colorado Clinic
DENVER — A mentally ill man accused of killing three people and injuring eight others at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado in 2015 could face trial if forcibly administered antipsychotic medication, a prison psychologist said Tuesday.
During a Denver federal court hearing where Robert Dear broke the proceedings several times with outbursts, psychologist Lea Ann Preston Baecht said there was a significant possibility that medication could treat his delusional disorder enough for him to take part in his case can and help his defense. She didn’t think psychotherapy alone would help Dear because he lacks understanding of his illness, which she says is largely characterized by a belief that others are stalking him, including former President Barack Obama and the FBI.
“I don’t think there’s a less intrusive option in Mr. Dear’s case,” Preston Baecht said.
Dear responded by shouting “marijuana,” one of many comments he made during the hearing.
When Preston Baecht said she didn’t think the drug would have any side effects that would render him unable to stand trial or communicate with his attorneys, Dear said loudly, “Bull–t.”
“This is where my brain is at stake. They want to turn me into a zombie,” he said, prompting Judge Robert E. Blackburn to issue another warning to remain silent or risk being removed from the hearing.
Earlier, Dear had declared himself a “warrior of babies” in court and pleaded guilty. During Tuesday’s hearing, he made other statements similar to, “I’m glad I did what I did. Great success.”
The arraignment against Dear in state court and then in federal court for the attack on the Colorado Springs clinic was dropped because he was repeatedly found to be mentally unfit to stand trial. Federal prosecutors ask Blackburn to order Dear given drugs against his will.
In a court filing, prosecutors said they expected Dear’s attorneys to argue that serious medical problems prevent him from being treated with antipsychotic drugs. According to prison medical records, Dear reported that he suffered a heart attack years ago while taking one of these drugs. But prosecutors said they couldn’t find any records to prove it, according to a prosecutor’s file.
Defense attorneys have not yet presented their case during the hearing, which could last until Wednesday.
Dear was coercively administered medications for several days during a stay at the Colorado State Mental Hospital, not long enough to determine if they were effective, Preston Baecht said.
Preston Baecht said she recommends medication for Dear based on her experience as a psychologist and studies done on prisoners who were given medication for delusional disorders.
During his questioning by defense attorney Jennifer Beck, Preston Baecht acknowledged that delusional disorders are relatively rare and as a result not much research has been done on their treatment.
Dear, described by acquaintances at the time of his arrest as a reclusive loner, is being represented by federal public defenders who do not speak to the media about their cases.
According to state court documents, Dear told police he attacked the clinic because he was upset with Planned Parenthood for “selling baby parts.”
Federal prosecutors allege that Dear planned to wage a “war” on the clinic for providing abortion services and was armed with four SKS semi-automatic rifles, five handguns, two other rifles, a shotgun, propane cylinders and 500 rounds of ammunition. According to his federal indictment, he allegedly began shooting outside the clinic before he got inside by shooting himself through a door.
Two of those killed in the attack accompanied friends to the clinic — Ke’Arre Stewart, 29, an Army veteran who served in Iraq and was a father of two, and Jennifer Markovsky, 36, a mother of two who grew up in Oahu, Hawaii. The third person killed was Garrett Swasey, a campus police officer at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, who visited the clinic after hearing there was an active shooter.
Prosecutors have ruled out seeking the death penalty against Dear, who is charged under the 1994 federal Free Access to Clinic Act, and instead are asking for a life sentence if convicted.
It is not known when Blackburn will decide whether Dear should be forcibly medicated.