Robert Dear, Planned Parenthood shooting suspect, ruled incompetent in federal case

A federal judge on Thursday declared the suspect in a 2015 mass shooting at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood clinic to be mentally incompetent, ending the prosecution’s hope that a criminal case brought in federal court could go forward after the state’s case had stalled.

Robert Dear, 63, has admitted to killing three people at the clinic, but the state’s case against him stalled beginning in 2016 after he repeatedly was found mentally incompetent to proceed — that is, he could not comprehend the criminal case against him or participate in his own defense.

Federal prosecutors brought 68 criminal counts against Dear in late 2019 in an attempt to move forward with criminal proceedings. While the standards for determining mental competency in federal court are nearly identical to Colorado’s standards, federal courts have a reputation for finding incompetency less frequently than state courts.

On Thursday, Senior Judge Robert Blackburn declared Dear incompetent in a brief hearing at the Alfred A. Arraj United States Courthouse in Denver. The finding of incompetency was not contested by the prosecution or defense, though Dear himself disagreed.

“I’m opposing it; I’m not crazy,” he shouted at one point, appearing via video feed from a mental health facility in Missouri with his attorney.

Blackburn ordered that Dear be committed for additional mental health care to “determine if there is a substantial probability that in the foreseeable future Mr. Dear will attain the capacity to permit the proceedings to go forward.”

Dear is accused of killing three people and wounding eight others during the Nov. 27, 2015, shooting rampage at the clinic.

Authorities believe he intended to wage “war” on the clinic because the staff performed abortions. He arrived armed with four SKS rifles, five handguns, two more rifles, a shotgun and more than 500 rounds of ammunition, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Twenty-seven people who were inside the clinic at the time hid until they could be rescued by law enforcement, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Dear fired 198 rounds in the attack and tried to blow up propane tanks in order to take out law enforcement vehicles during a five-hour standoff, according to the office.

Four police officers were wounded and one was killed.

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