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Thank the Gods for the Feds

Early Friday evening, a crushing weight was lifted off of my chest. The Tiller assassination hit me on a lot of levels, some of them personal, some of them political. But one in particular was weighing heavily on me: from where I was sitting, evidence of a cover-up by the Wichita police was inescapably clear, unambiguous, and 100% certain. This isn't something that I have the luxury of feeling surprised by, either. If you've read anything by any abortion provider, clinic employee, or clinic volunteer, or if you've spoken with any of them about this as I have, one thing you hear from very nearly all of them is this: cops don't care what happens to an abortion clinic or to an abortion provider. A disproportionately large number of the police chiefs in this country are, themselves, anti-abortion. But even the rest of them would quietly and secretly be delighted if the protesters and the terrorists they inspire managed to shut down their town's abortion clinic, because to a police chief, an abortion clinic is an "attractive nuisance."

So many people are willing to go to such illegal lengths to shut one down that there is no police department in this country that can afford what it would cost to fully investigate every crime against an abortion provider or an abortion facility. So even the best of them wish the problem would just go away, and the easiest way for the problem to just go away would be if the abortion providers and clinics moved out of their town, and became some other police department's problem. So while I wanted to scream with rage at the screen when I read that the Wichita police chief rushed to tell reporters that Roeder acted alone before Tiller's body had even been removed from the church, so early that even if it was true he couldn't possibly know that, I couldn't make myself feel surprised or shocked. At most, I was shocked that he was that sloppy and careless about giving away the fact that he had no intention of investigating to see if Roeder had any co-conspirators; shouldn't he at least have been ashamed to reveal that so early?

None the less, a substantial chunk of the anger that was gnawing at me and robbing me of my ability to sleep for more than 2 or 3 hours at a time was coming from my entirely justifiable fear that the rest of Roeder's terror cell were still at large, were still free to conspire against additional doctors and clinics, and once they found another willing patsy to do the last bit of dirty work and take the fall for them, they would kill again, and that none of the people whose job it is to do something about that were going to do so. So it came as an overwhelming relief when I found out, Friday evening, that the US Department of Justice had just put out a press release reading, in part:
The Department's Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Kansas have launched a federal investigation into federal crimes in connection with the murder of Dr. George Tiller. The federal probe will consist of a thorough review of the evidence and an assessment of any potential violations of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (FACE Act) or other federal statutes. ... The FACE Act was enacted by Congress in 1994 to establish federal criminal penalties and civil remedies for violent, obstructionist or damaging conduct affecting reproductive health care providers and recipients. "The Department of Justice will work tirelessly to determine the full involvement of any and all actors in this horrible crime, and to ensure that anyone who played a role in the offense is prosecuted to the full extent of federal law," said Loretta King, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division."
Thank all the holy gods, because this is something that the Wichita police department very deliberately, in the first few hours after the assassination, tried to prevent. In the first few hours after the shooting, they repeatedly told reporters that this was a crime by a Kansan with no links to anyone outside of Kansas, against a Kansan, within Kansas, with no part of the crime taking place across state lines, and therefore there was no federal jurisdiction. They didn't explicitly say "feds, back off," but they were pretty clearly unhappy that the BATF and the FBI responded to the 911 call from Dr. Tiller's church. And that left me very, very angry because if the Wichita police department was the only one that investigated this crime, I was pretty sure we were never going to get an answer to any of the following questions:
  1. Tiller was famous for never going anywhere without at least one armed bodyguard. Only a fairly small number of people knew that there was one exception, that he didn't bring his bodyguard with him to church. Given that Roeder lives in Kansas City, who did the surveillance that turned up this tidbit, and how did it get to Roeder?

  2. Furthermore, Tiller would only have been vulnerable on Sundays that he was an usher. Any time that he wasn't ushering, he would have been embedded in a crowd to big for Roeder to get through to get to him. Did Tiller usher every service? If not, how did Roeder know that Tiller would be ushering this service? Who knew that in advance? Most of the people I assume would know are pretty clearly above suspicion, like the deacons and the other ushers, but who prints the programs for Tiller's church?

  3. And here's a really ugly one. Even as an usher, there was only a very narrow window of time when Tiller and the other ushers would be alone in the lobby. Two minutes earlier, and the lobby would have been too crowded for Roeder to reach Tiller with a gun. Two minutes later, and the lobby would have been empty. And church schedules don't run on split-second accuracy; the start of a service can vary by 10 minutes or more. Judging by the photographs of the building that I've seen, there's no way for someone in the parking lot to see how full the lobby of the church is, so how did Roeder know exactly when to walk in, how did he know the exact minute that if he walked in there would be nobody between him and Tiller, unless someone in the congregation text messaged him with it or otherwise signaled him? Remember: months ago, Roeder himself suggested, on the Operation Rescue chat forums, that someone from that group infiltrate Dr. Tiller's church.

  4. When Roeder was arrested, reporters photographed his car, and visible on the top of a pile of papers on the dashboard was an envelope with the name and phone number of Operation Rescue "senior policy adviser" Cheryl Sullenger, who served a two year prison term in 1988 for the attempted bombing of an abortion clinic. Sullenger, who says that her violent days are behind her, has given at least two, maybe three conflicting stories to reporters about her contacts with Roeder. Was that phone number on the dashboard of Roeder's car after the assassination because he called her before the assassination? Or after? And what did they discuss?

  5. Within an hour of the crime, the description of Roeder and his car, with license plate number, were released to the media. Reporters found out where that car was registered and went there, and asked the neighbors if they'd seen that car. According to early press reports, the neighbors knew instantly who they meant, because the house was a local nuisance. So many people were constantly coming and going from that house, day and night, every day of the week, that the local neighbors bitterly joked that it needed a revolving door. Some, but only some, of the gatherings of people sounded like worship services. Question: Who were those people, and what did they know about Roeder's plans?

  6. Another complication: Roeder supposedly no longer lived at that address. It turns out that Roeder moved out of that house months ago, and was living across town in another part of Kansas City. So why was his car still there almost every night? Who does own that house, and what are they using it for?

  7. Roeder was arrested slightly over three and a half hours after the shooting, on the outskirts of Kansas City. According to Google Maps, it should have taken him only two and a half hours to drive that far. Where was he during the missing hour, and who was he with? Police say they fanned out and checked every hotel and motel in the area, and he wasn't there. His car was being looked for by every patrolling police car. Who hid him? Or did one or more police officers see him and let him pass?

  8. And given the relatively low number of interstate highways leaving Wichita, how did he get as far as Kansas City, especially if he didn't leave Wichita for an hour? Why didn't the cops catch him on his way out of town?

  9. Furthermore, given that Roeder saw one of the ushers photograph him, and given the likelihood that he saw the same usher photograph his car as he left the parking lot, why was Roeder driving towards his home in the Kansas City area? Did he really think he was going to get away with it? Or was he heading that direction to distract police attention from Wichita?

  10. Roeder spent a lot of time unemployed, recently, and at the time of the shooting his reported income was $1100 a month. But a third of that was being garnished to pay off a credit card he had defaulted on. And supposedly he lived alone. So how in the heck was he affording the gasoline to drive 150 miles each way from Kansas City to Wichita every day for Tiller's trial, when Tiller was accused of performing illegal late-term abortions on viable fetuses without medical necessity?

  11. Furthermore, Roeder's employer is given as Quicksilver Airport Delivery. Roeder had a past conviction for transporting a partially assembled pipe bomb, and was a known past associate of the local chapter of the Montana Freemen white-supremacist militia. Shouldn't a job at an airport have required a background check, and if so, how did he of all people pass one?

  12. Where did Roeder get a gun, if he was so broke? Who armed him? What did Roeder tell that person about why he wanted a gun?

  13. And one really, really big and ugly one: if Roeder only has $10 in the bank, why was he so fiercely determined to get a judge to set bail? Who did he think was going to put up that five million dollar bail for him?

  14. And finally, in light of all of the above, can anybody think of any non-sinister reason why the Wichita police department was in such a hurry to conclude that Roeder was a "lone nut" and in such a hurry to chase off the federal investigators?
Maybe, now that the feds are involved, we'll get some answers. But I already know this much for a fact: Scott Roeder did not act alone.

Before you comment, please read this blog's updated policy on commenting about abortion. Thank you.


( 42 comments — Leave a comment )
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Jun. 7th, 2009 11:24 am (UTC)
having NOTHING to do with my opinion of abortion....

i agree that something stinks in denmark, or wichita in this case. its very sad that the "he acted alone" has been used so often as a "shut up! i dont want to deal with it" that at this point it immediately triggers a "wonder who else was in on it" response in me.

as to some of your points:

i dont know how many people could have the Operation rescue persons phone number. having never tried to get it....so i dont know if it actually means anything. loads of radicals and etc want someone to brag at, or what not.... someone they feel with "understand" (even if they wont) so i dont consider the phone number or name to be notable UNLESS that is not easily available.... then it is. after all, if he had the number of a newspaper it doesnt mean the paper was in on it.

(yes i think it stinks of conspiracy, but i also know how much the nuts like to publish)

i do know a LOT of very broke people who have guns. the gas prices are more of an issue.

security background checks, especially at some companies, are a JOKE...... you can also work for a company that does work at an airport without having an airport clearance badge, but its most likely that the dude just slipped by their poor background check. (which is its own issue that the feds should be investigating)

you are making one very big assumption:
that because he got a shot at the guy during the very limited time window the ushers were alone, that he was tipped off about that in specific....
most people who are familiar with that style of church would know where the ushers congregate, and roughly when.... and how likely are you as a busy usher to notice if someone walks in (or looks in) and goes to their seat? he could have been trying this for weeks.... or he could have been lucky.
he certainly COULD have been alerted from inside the church, but i dont feel thats a given.. especially since he would have had to be there in advance in any case.

also? do NOT discount his fellow ushers or deacons or what not..... being a PK (preachers kid) i can tell you that some of the politics even within the church about church stuff... (shudder)

so yes, its very good the feds are on this one.. and yes its obvious to me that the wichita police were trying to shut it up as fast as possible.....
but while i consider it very likely that he had co -conspirators, i dont agree with all your points or suspicion.

Jun. 7th, 2009 01:38 pm (UTC)
Sullenger has given two entirely plausible stories for why Roeder had her phone number in his car. The problem is, they conflict with each other. At the beginning, she said she had never heard of the guy, never met him, never spoke with him, he never called her, that he must have just copied that phone number off of one of their press releases.

Then, right about the time investigators would have pulled her phone records (if they're smart), she suddenly changed her story: yes, she spoke with Roeder often, but only because he kept calling her to find out what days Tiller was going to be in the countroom and how to get there.

Why the change in story? Maybe there is an innocent answer. But no sane and serious police officer would assume so without checking.
Jun. 7th, 2009 11:37 am (UTC)
As always, I'm glad I read your posts. Insightful.

I haven't read up too much on Mr. Tiller's death, because it's so painfully sad to me. I believe firmly that a doctor should help patients who need it, and he did the right thing for *so* many people.

I've often described myself not as "pro-choice" but as actively "pro-abortion" - I believe that pregnancy is usually the worse choice, and would prefer people would have fewer children by any (safe) means necessary. (Not interested in debating this, thanks. I realize this may offend some people; feel free to disagree with me, but I'm not up for discussion.)

At any rate, I really appreciate your insights into this. Like the commenter above me, I think you may be overstating some points. Yet as always, you provide me with useful food for thought that I really value.
Jun. 7th, 2009 12:43 pm (UTC)
*fingers crossed hard enough to fracture in the hopes they we will get answers to at least some of these questions*
Jun. 7th, 2009 12:55 pm (UTC)
With regard to #7, it rather depends on what route he took. If he stayed on the Turnpike (goes through Topeka) it would have taken about that long.
Jun. 7th, 2009 01:34 pm (UTC)
I agree that the travel-time questions will likely have plausible explanations. You do raise some important, legitimate questions, but be careful not to go anomaly-hunting.

(Thought about using my Firefly "Mal Shot First" icon, as I usually do when something has me pissed off, as I have been since the story broke. But I thought it was in bad taste. So I'll just ask "What would Superman do" and leave it at that.)
(no subject) - bradhicks - Jun. 7th, 2009 02:55 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - lapis_lazuli615 - Jun. 8th, 2009 05:15 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - kinkyturtle - Jun. 8th, 2009 07:17 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - lapis_lazuli615 - Jun. 8th, 2009 07:30 am (UTC) - Expand
Jun. 7th, 2009 01:55 pm (UTC)
I describe myself as "anti-illegal abortion" (having had one in my family) advocate.

Like you, I am not surprised of the reactions from the Wichita COP.

People were asking the same questions about T. McVey and, to some extent, L.H. Oswald.

Ah, the lone nut theory; luckiest men in the world. Right place

There are Christians involved with this. Perhaps it is time we sent them to Judgment™ as well.

I like the way you type. Fascinating insight.
(Deleted comment)
Jun. 7th, 2009 03:06 pm (UTC)
Amen, and I'll add, "and gods bless Loretta King." They're turning out to be the two best appointments Obama made.
(no subject) - ladybrigid - Jun. 7th, 2009 04:01 pm (UTC) - Expand
Gah. - (Anonymous) - Jun. 7th, 2009 06:07 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jun. 7th, 2009 02:32 pm (UTC)

I don't have any way to check this, but it's a claim that both local authorities and the FBI ignored complaints that Roeder had vandalized a Kansas city clinic.
Jun. 7th, 2009 03:02 pm (UTC)
Ignored seems to be an exaggeration. The FBI did intend to respond to Roeder's attack on that Kansas City clinic ... on Monday.

The last paragraph of the DOJ press release that I linked to, above, says, "In an effort to coordinate the federal government’s efforts in response to the shooting of Dr. Tiller, the Civil Rights Division recently convened a meeting of the National Task Force on Violence Against Reproductive Health Care Providers, an interagency law enforcement working group that includes attorneys from the Civil Rights Division and the Criminal Division, and law enforcement officials from the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the U.S. Marshals Service and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. This task force was established more than a decade ago to commit resources to the reduction of threats and violence against health care providers on a national level."

Here's the backstory on that: in order to make sure the FACE Act was enforced, President Clinton set up a permanent inter-agency task force to investigate all attacks on abortion providers and clinics. Bush defunded it. Since it hadn't met any time since 2001, there wasn't anybody in the government whose job it was to notice that Roeder, and others, were escalating quickly. Even if they didn't notice that, if this task force had been operational, they might have been doing something about that DHS report about the imminent threat of right-wing racist and/or abortion-related terrorism, and it's barely possible this could have resulted in stepped-up security for Tiller or additional surveillance on Roeder. Maybe.

All I will say about that is, "Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment" is turning out to be 2009's equivalent of 2001's "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US." The intel people did their jobs, the enforcement people dropped the ball.
Jun. 7th, 2009 02:33 pm (UTC)
I can imagine innocent explanations to many of those questions. It's even possible that there are innocent explanations to ALL of them.

But . . . it's definitely worth looking into every one of them.
Jun. 7th, 2009 03:04 pm (UTC)
And that's all I'm saying: that it was disgustingly premature, and maybe sinister, that the Wichita police department rushed to discount all of them, so thank the gods somebody isn't rushing to assume that Roeder was a "lone gunman."
Jun. 7th, 2009 03:07 pm (UTC)
Roeder Conspiracy minus the Tin Foil Hats
Checking the points of one by one:

1/2/3. Dr.Tiller's church was probably infiltrated by two or more members of Operation Rescue or they are already members. If they were already members, then just finally deciced to act based on a recent change of events. They would most likely have been the eyes and ears for Roeder's assault and its likely the Feds are going to have to do a mass invesigation of the phone record to see if there are calls placed just prior to Dr. Tiller's death.

4. Sullenger is probably the "real" leader and had been scouting for a perfect nut to perform this type of killing. Since he fits the typical lone nut profile then it can be the Oswald conspiracy all over again.

5. Like with 4, Roeder is being made to take the fall for "his" actions and will be a sacrificed matyr to the cause. The information being released so suddenly, seems like vigilante Googlism or was intentionally released for him to be caught after a specific time frame.

6. His home was the meeting place for Operation Rescue and sounds like the KCPD either knew about all the comings and goings and after a cusory investigation that it wasn't drugs or something illegal decided to drop it. If religion was involved, the KCPD Brass wanted to drop it quick to avoid a possible harrassment suit. So this tells us that domestic terrorism was happening, just let off the hook based on religious freedoms.

7. Roeder was probably hiding somewhere close by and then panicked after his information was released to the local media. The people who hid him most likely were the same infiltrators and realized that him being there was a threat. If he had been smart he would have lost the weapon sooner and changed his appearance.

Jun. 7th, 2009 03:59 pm (UTC)
Re: Roeder Conspiracy minus the Tin Foil Hats pt.2
8. The WPD may have not gotten the information soon enough to find him and he may have been out of the immediate area, but likely if he did get to a safehouse (7), he thought he might be able to escape since he had gotten away already and was unaware that his information was out on the wire. So he may have stopped to rest and get unwired from being in "combat" to appear less of a threat to police.

9. Like 8, he may have thought he got away with it. His escape plans may have been changed and he was unable to get to an alternate vehicle or location where he was supposed to hide out. Or his accomplices had sold him out and put his information out to make sure he was caught intentionally. The lone nut theory only works if their is one player and the others rat him out early to make it seem that they aren't involved.

10. Operation Rescue like most religious organization have tax exemptions status. So his funding was most likely an under the table event. He was made to be a functional patsy and was bankrolled by them, if the Feds investigate and bring in the Secret Service for money tracking, I can give odds that this will be a big fish fry if the money trails can be followed correctly and land the bottom feeders.

11. QuickSilver is a glorified taxi operations that hire anyone and while supposedly sounds legit, probably has violations that have been ignored by the KC BBB. They also pulled down their Jesus fish emblem, which was up a few days ago. So that sounds fishy too.

12. Kansas is a gun (nut) state. The NRA has strongholds there as the last bastion of Christian Nationalism, so getting a gun in Kansas is like going to buy gas & beer at 7/11 everywhere else. He could have easily bartered for it or had it prior to the shooting. People like Roeder believe in the adage, "You can have my gun, when you take it from my cold dead fingers." He'd rather have sold his car than his gun.

13. Roeder is a member of Operation Rescue, he thinks that he's done good and will be set free and can flee. His actions in his mind are justified and he refuses to believe he broke the law of man and that he did the "Lord's work". So this mindset is why he thinks he should get bail. If he gets a religious money backed lawyer and not a PD, then most likely he's going to think he's protected and did the right thing.

14. The WPD like you said didn't want the hassle of invesigating a death that is politicial and religious motivated. This type of crime causes them to be under the media microscope and have to do proper work. This level of scrutinty is never good for the "good old boys" and makes them seem like stupid hicks. They would rather deal with hunting accidents and other open and closed cases rather than something that is way over their heads. So I can't say I surprised that they would rather pass the buck, then do this type of work. Its because they will have to fight personal views of abortion and also have criticism from their own community and co-workers. Also the mayor,sheriff, and city council are afraid to get involved as it would be a witch-hunt that could bite them in the ass during the next election cycle and the power of the pulpit can sway voters especially those who side with baby killers.

Passing this problem along to a federal level makes it easier for them to avoid political embarassments if their fellow council members or someone on the police force is involved with the murder. The federal government has more funding to invesigate the murder Its a lose-lose senario and having the Feds there releaves them of the backlash. So this is their choice to save their face and career, over doing the correct thing and catching a group of domestic terrorists.
Jun. 7th, 2009 06:17 pm (UTC)
Wow-- that's better investigative journalism than the jerks writing most of the stories. Thanks!
Jun. 7th, 2009 06:27 pm (UTC)
Roeder message
Great, so while Obama's out of country, more domestic terrorists are going to suddenly come crawling out of their holes. I'm still curious about who his lawyer is and where the money to pay for him is coming from. Like they say want to find a guilty group is follow the money trails that lead from the lawyers office to the source of the problem.
Re: Roeder message - ff00ff - Jun. 7th, 2009 07:10 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jun. 7th, 2009 07:09 pm (UTC)
It's easy to imagine innocent explanations for most of these. The question of how and where he got the gun is almost comically naive. In a state like Kansas there would certainly be no one asking someone else why they were buying a gun, it's obviously to defend ones self from the roving bands of violent criminals that everyone of a far right mindset knows are out there but no one has ever seen. Do we know what sort of gun it was? I presume it was a pistol of some sort, but have not seen this reported specifically. I would expect an American involved in the patriot militia movement to have been using a pistol in .45acp with hollow point bullets if the murder was entirely his idea. I'm just pretending to be a psychologist of course, but this is the way I believe such people's gun porn fantasies of righteous murder go down.

That missing hour is terribly problematic. But it does rely on a google maps assumption, and I'm not certain that's rock solid.

As for how Roeder knew where Tiller would be without his bodyguard and when, I do believe that Operation Rescue had been stalking Tiller for decades and made a regular habit of posting his daily routines and itinerary on their website. Infiltration, for the purpose of disrupting services, of Tiller's church had been preformed by OR before, and it's easy to believe that they would be able to have advanced information of when he'd be an usher, or where the Usher's hang out before services begin.

Do you think that, with the discovery of even a little link of OR feeding Roeder this sort of information that the entire organization could be indicted under the RICO Act? Frankly I'd like to see Bill O'Reilly brought up on such charges as well, but fat chance.
Jun. 7th, 2009 07:28 pm (UTC)
But I already know this much for a fact: Scott Roeder did not act alone.

I agree with you. Thanks to your background about the case I think it's obvious that this guy was directed.

The pro-life folks were falling over themselves to say that Roeder was "on the fringe" of the movement, until it quickly became clear that he was anything but.

I wonder if there's a type of collective insanity in such groups of people, based upon undying belief in an idea, and exacerbated by their failure to overturn the law of the land, their failure to succeed.
Jun. 7th, 2009 08:52 pm (UTC)
You need to add color:black to your CSS for highlighting. On pages with white fonts, it's not possible to read.
Jun. 8th, 2009 12:26 am (UTC)
Custom-coding CSS is a pain on LiveJournal, especially since I'm not entirely fluent in CSS, and especially since it's apparently your CSS that's overriding the default font color, which I'm pretty sure would take precedence. I did add a font color=black tag to the link, but apparently your style's link color overrode it. "View in Original Style" would, of course, display it in my blog's CSS.
Jun. 8th, 2009 06:27 pm (UTC)
Was this a terrorist act?
Looking at the news, various articles are pointing out that Roeder is being charged with murder but not with terrorism.
Jun. 9th, 2009 06:09 pm (UTC)
Re: Was this a terrorist act?
It's only terrorism when it's not your religion doing the killing.
short answer: no, it wasn't. - hick0ry - Jun. 10th, 2009 02:37 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: short answer: no, it wasn't. - reconditarmonia - Jun. 10th, 2009 02:49 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: short answer: no, it wasn't. - hick0ry - Jun. 10th, 2009 10:10 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: short answer: no, it wasn't. - reconditarmonia - Jun. 11th, 2009 07:21 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: short answer: no, it wasn't. - hick0ry - Jun. 11th, 2009 07:59 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: short answer: no, it wasn't. - reconditarmonia - Jun. 11th, 2009 08:08 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: short answer: no, it wasn't. - (Anonymous) - Jun. 10th, 2009 04:13 pm (UTC) - Expand
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