Suspect in Colorado attack called recluse who left few clues

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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) -- A gunman who police say staged a deadly attack on a Planned Parenthood clinic was a recluse who stashed food in the woods, avoided eye contact, warned neighbors about government spying and passed out anti-Obama pamphlets, those who knew him said.

Authorities say Robert Lewis Dear, 57, killed three people, including a police officer, during an hours-long standoff before surrendering at the Colorado Springs clinic. Police have not disclosed a motive, but the city's mayor, John Suthers, said people can make "inferences from where it took place," referring to the clinic.

SEE ALSO: Alleged Planned Parenthood shooter Robert Dear has a history of lewd acts and violence

The facility provides women's health services, including abortions, and has long been the site of regular anti-abortion protests. A Roman Catholic priest who has held weekly Mass in front of the clinic for 20 years said Dear wasn't part of his group.

"I don't know him from Adam," said Rev. Bill Carmody. "I don't recognize him at all."

The attack thrust the clinic to the center of the ongoing debate over Planned Parenthood. It was re-ignited in July when anti-abortion activists released undercover video they said showed the organization's personnel negotiating the sale of fetal organs.

Planned Parenthood has denied seeking any payments beyond legally permitted reimbursement costs for donating the organs to researchers. Still, the National Abortion Federation, an association of service providers, says it has seen a rise in threats at clinics nationwide since the video's release.

At a vigil Saturday at All Souls Unitarian Church, Rev. Nori Rost called the gunman a "domestic terrorist." In the back of the room, someone held a sign that said: "Women's bodies are not battlefields. Neither is our town."

More photos of this developing story:

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Suspect in Colorado attack called recluse who left few clues
Colorado Springs shooting suspect Robert Lewis Dear of North Carolina is seen in undated photos provided by the El Paso County Sheriff's Office. A gunman burst into a Planned Parenthood clinic Friday, Nov. 27, 2015 and opened fire, launching several gunbattles and an hourslong standoff with police as patients and staff took cover. By the time the shooter surrendered, at least three people were killed, including a police officer and at least nine others were wounded, authorities said. (El Paso County Sheriff's Office via AP)
This photo provided by the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs shows officer Garrett Swasey, who was killed in a shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, Colo., Friday, Nov. 27, 2015. A gunman who opened fire inside a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood clinic was arrested Friday after engaging in gun battles with authorities during an hours-long standoff that killed several, including Swasey, and wounded others, officials said. (University of Colorado at Colorado Springs via AP)
COLORADO SPRINGS, CO - NOVEMBER 27: A suspect is led away in handcuffs by police during an active shooter situation outside a Planned Parenthood facility where an active shooter reportedly injured up to eleven people, including at least five police officers, on November 27, 2015 in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Police continue to investigate the scene and are searching the buiding for possible explosive devices. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
COLORADO SPRINGS, CO - NOVEMBER 27: A suspect is led away in handcuffs by police during an active shooter situation outside a Planned Parenthood facility where an active shooter reportedly injured up to eleven people, including at least five police officers, on November 27, 2015 in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Police continue to investigate the scene and are searching the buiding for possible explosive devices. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
COLORADO SPRINGS, CO - NOVEMBER 27: A suspect is led away in handcuffs by police during an active shooter situation outside a Planned Parenthood facility where an active shooter reportedly injured up to eleven people, including at least five police officers, on November 27, 2015 in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Police continue to investigate the scene and are searching the buiding for possible explosive devices. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
A police vehicle, carrying a suspect, is lead away after a shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic Friday, Nov. 27, 2015, in Colorado Springs, Colo. A gunman opened fire at the clinic on Friday, authorities said, wounding multiple people. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Lt. Catherine Buckley, center, of the Colorado Springs Police Department, talk to members of the media as Fire Chief Christopher Riley, right, looks on after a shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic Friday, Nov. 27, 2015, in Colorado Springs, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Colorado Springs Fire Department Chief Christopher Riley, center, reacts to question from the media after a shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic Friday, Nov. 27, 2015, in Colorado Springs, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Vehicles block off an intersection after a deadly shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic Friday, Nov. 27, 2015, in Colorado Springs, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Map locates Colorado Springs, Colorado, where there was a shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic; 1c x 1 1/2 inches; 46.5 mm x 38 mm;
People are escorted away from the scene by police after a gunman opened fire at a Planned Parenthood facility on Centennial Boulevard in Colorado Springs, Colo., on Friday, Nov. 27, 2015. The gunman was captured alive. (Daniel Owen/Colorado Springs Gazette/TNS via Getty Images)
COLORADO SPRINGS, CO - NOVEMBER 27: An officer waits on the intersection of Windmill and Centennial while facing south towards the scene of a shooting November 27, 2015 in Colorado Springs, CO. (Photo by Brent Lewis/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
An officer stands guard near a Planned Parenthood clinic Friday, Nov. 27, 2015, in Colorado Springs, Colo. A gunman opened fire at the clinic on Friday, authorities said, wounding multiple people. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
COLORADO SPRINGS, CO - NOVEMBER 27: People are rescued near the scene of a shooting at the Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs Friday November 27, 2015.(Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
COLORADO SPRINGS, CO - NOVEMBER 27: People are rescued near the scene of a shooting at the Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs Friday November 27, 2015. (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
COLORADO SPRINGS, CO - NOVEMBER 27: Joan Motolinia shows concern over his sister who was inside the Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, CO. (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
Police respond to the scene with an active shooter near the Planned Parenthood at Fillmore and Centennial in Colorado Springs, Colo., on Friday, Nov. 27, 2015. (Stacie Scott/Colorado Springs Gazette/TNS via Getty Images)
A Colorado Springs police officer is transported from the tactical vehicle to an ambulance after a gunman opened fire at a Planned Parenthood facility on Centennial Boulevard in Colorado Springs, Colo., on Friday, Nov. 27, 2015. The gunman was captured alive. (Daniel Owen/Colorado Springs Gazette/TNS via Getty Images)
COLORADO SPRINGS, CO - NOVEMBER 27: A member of the Colorado Springs sheriff's department secures the scene during an active shooter situation near a Planned Parenthood facility where an unidentified suspect has reportedly injured up to nine people, including at least four police officers, on November 27, 2015 in Colorado Springs, Colorado. A standoff has developed outside the clinic and the area is on lockdown. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
COLORADO SPRINGS, CO - NOVEMBER 27: Colorado Springs Police spokesperson Lt. Catherine Buckley addresses the media during an active shooter situation near a Planned Parenthood facility where an unidentified suspect has reportedly injured up to nine people, including at least four police officers, on November 27, 2015 in Colorado Springs, Colorado. A standoff developed outside the clinic and the area is on lockdown. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
COLORADO SPRINGS, CO - NOVEMBER 27: People are rescued near the scene of a shooting in Colorado Springs Friday November 27, 2015. (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
COLORADO SPRINGS, CO - NOVEMBER 27: People are rescued near the scene of a shooting at the Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs Friday November 27, 2015. (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
COLORADO SPRINGS, CO - NOVEMBER 27: Colorado Springs rescue personnel stand ready near the scene of an active shooting in Colorado Springs Friday November 27, 2015. (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
An officer from the Colorado Springs K-9 Unit is being transferred from a tactical vehicle to an ambulance before being transported from the scene during a shooting incident n Colorado Springs, Colo., on Friday, Nov. 27, 2015. (Daniel Owen/Colorado Springs Gazette/TNS via Getty Images)
An officer patrols the perimeter during a shooting incident in Colorado Springs, Colo., on Friday, Nov. 27, 2015. (Daniel Owen/Colorado Springs Gazette/TNS via Getty Images)
Police respond to the scene with an active shooter near the Planned Parenthood at Fillmore and Centennial in Colorado Springs, Colo., on Friday, Nov. 27, 2015. (Stacie Scott/Colorado Springs Gazette/TNS via Getty Images)
A gunman opened fire inside a Planned Parenthood facility on Centennial Boulevard in Colorado Springs, Colo., on Friday, Nov. 27, 2015. The gunman was captured alive. (Daniel Owen/Colorado Springs Gazette/TNS via Getty Images)
Police stand guard at the intersection of Centennial and Fillmore near a Planned Parenthood clinic Friday, Nov. 27, 2015, in Colorado Springs, Colo. A gunman opened fire at the clinic on Friday, authorities said, wounding multiple people. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
COLORADO SPRINGS, CO - NOV. 27: Members of law enforcement enter the emergency room at Penrose Hospital in Colorado Springs where some people were transported from an active shooting near a shopping center, where an armed person is insided a Planned Parenthood and has been shooting at police officers outside. (Photo by Kathryn Scott Osler/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
COLORADO SPRINGS, CO - NOVEMBER 27: Colorado Springs police officers and rescue personnel transport an injured officer near the scene of an active shooting in Colorado Springs Friday November 27, 2015. (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
COLORADO SPRINGS, CO - NOVEMBER 27: Colorado Springs police officers search the area near the scene of an active shooting in Colorado Springs Friday November 27, 2015. (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
Planned Parenthood clinic shooting survivor Ozy Licano describes his encounter with the shooter Friday, Nov. 27, 2015, in Colorado Springs Colo. A gunman who opened fire inside a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood clinic was arrested Friday after engaging in gun battles with authorities during an hours-long standoff that killed multiple people and wounded others, officials said. Licano, who the gunman shot toward while he was in his car, suffered cuts from the window glass and was treated and released from Memorial Hospital on Friday. (Christian Murdock/The Gazette via AP, Pool)
A crime scene investigator looks over a police vehicle damaged during Friday's shooting spree near a Planned Parenthood clinic Sunday, Nov. 29, 2015, in northwest Colorado Springs, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Crime scene investigators look over a vehicle damaged during Friday's shooting spree near a Planned Parenthood clinic Sunday, Nov. 29, 2015, in northwest Colorado Springs, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
#BREAKING: Colorado Springs firefighters responding to active shooter at Planned Parenthood: https://t.co/57H9v2T3uq
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Vicki Cowart, the regional head of Planned Parenthood, drew a standing ovation when she walked to the pulpit. She promised to quickly reopen the clinic. "We will adapt. We will square our shoulders and we will go on," she said.

After her remarks, a woman in the audience stood up, objected to the vigil becoming a "political statement" and left.

Cowart said the gunman "broke in" to the clinic Friday but didn't get past a locked door leading to the main part of the facility. She said there was no armed security when the shooting began.

In the parking lot of the two-story building, one man said the gunman shot at him as he pulled his car out, blasting two holes in his windshield. Inside, one worker ducked under a table and called her brother to tell him to take care of her kids if she was killed.

At one point, an officer whispered reports into his radio as he crept through the building. Others relayed information from surveillance cameras and victims in hiding. "We've got a report of a victim texting from just east of the lobby," someone said.

In the end, a six-year veteran University of Colorado police officer was killed. Two civilians also died, though their identities weren't immediately released. Five other officers and four people were hospitalized.

Cowart said all 15 clinic employees survived and worked hard to make sure everyone else got into safe spaces and stayed quiet.

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper said the city is mourning and praised the bravery of first responders. He said the nation is wrestling with the causes of violence but that it's too early to discuss that while the city is reeling.

"This is the kind of thing that hits the entire community in the gut," he said.

Cowart said the organization would learn from the attack. When asked if the clinic should have more security, she said the clinic's clients shouldn't have to walk through metal detectors.

The attack marked the latest mass shooting to stun the nation, and drew the now-familiar questions about a gunman's motives and whether anyone, from government to relatives, could have done anything to prevent an attack.

Those who knew Dear said he seemed to have few religious or political leanings.

Neighbors who lived beside Dear's former South Carolina home say he hid food in the woods as if he was a survivalist and said he lived off selling prints of his uncle's paintings of Southern plantations and the Masters golf tournament.

John Hood said Saturday that when he moved to Walterboro, Dear was living in a doublewide mobile home next door. Hood said Dear seemed to be a loner and very strange but not dangerous. He pointed to a wooden fence separating their land and said he put it up because Dear liked to skinny dip.

Hood said that Dear rarely talked to them, and when he did, he tended to offer unsolicited advice such as recommending that Hood put a metal roof on his house so the U.S. government couldn't spy on him.

"He was really strange and out there, but I never thought he would do any harm," he said.

Dear also lived part of the time in a cabin with no electricity or running water in Black Mountain, North Carolina. He kept mostly to himself, his neighbors said. When he did talk, it was a rambling combination of a number of topics that didn't make sense.

He tended to avoid eye contact, said James Russell, who lived a few hundred feet down the mountain from Dear's cabin. "If you talked to him, nothing with him was very cognitive," Russell said.

Other neighbors knew Dear too, but they didn't want to give their names because they said they were scared of him.

Russell and others said the only companion they saw with him was a mangy dog that looked to be in such bad shape they called animal control because they worried he was beating it.

In the small town of Hartsel, Colorado, about 60 miles west of Colorado Springs, about a dozen police vehicles and fire trucks were parked outside a small white trailer belonging to Dear located on a sprawling swath of land. Property records indicate Dear purchased the land about a year ago.

A law enforcement official said authorities searched the trailer Saturday but found no explosives. The official, who has direct knowledge of the case, said authorities also talked with a woman who was living in the trailer. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to speak publicly about the ongoing investigation.

Zigmond Post, who lives near the RV where Dear lived, said he didn't have many interactions with Dear but he said the suspect once gave him a pamphlet opposing President Barack Obama.

"He didn't talk about them or anything. He just said 'Look them over when you get a chance,'" Post said.

Jamie Heffelman, owner of the Highline Cafe in Hartsel, said residents would occasionally see the 6-foot-4-inch, 250-pound Dear at the post office to get his mail but he never said much.

"Nobody really knows him. He stays to himself," she said.

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Associated Press writers Kristen Wyatt and P. Solomon Banda in Colorado Springs; Alina Hartounian in Phoenix; Michael Biesecker in Black Mountain, North Carolina; Jeffrey Collins in Walterboro, South Carolina; David Crary in New York; Brian Melley in Los Angeles; and Colleen Slevin, Dan Elliott in Denver contributed to this report.

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