Suspect in Tiller's death supported killing abortion providers, friends say
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By Judy L. Thomas | Kansas City Star
The suspect in custody for the slaying of Wichita abortion doctor George Tiller was a member of an anti-government group in the 1990s and a staunch opponent of abortion.
Scott P. Roeder, 51, of Merriam, Kan., a Kansas City suburb, was arrested on Interstate 35 near Gardner in suburban Johnson County, Kan., about three hours after the shooting. Tiller was shot to death around 10 a.m. inside Reformation Lutheran Church in Wichita.
In the rear window of the 1993 blue Ford Taurus that he was driving was a red rose, a symbol often used by abortion opponents. On the rear of his car was a Christian fish symbol with the word "Jesus" inside.
Those who know Roeder said he believed that killing abortion doctors was an act of justifiable homicide.
"I know that he believed in justifiable homicide," said Regina Dinwiddie, a Kansas City anti-abortion activist who made headlines in 1995 when she was ordered by a federal judge to stop using a bullhorn within 500 feet of any abortion clinic. "I know he very strongly believed that abortion was murder and that you ought to defend the little ones, both born and unborn."
Dinwiddie said she met Roeder while picketing outside the Kansas City Planned Parenthood clinic in 1996. Roeder walked into the clinic and asked to see the doctor, Robert Crist, she said.
"Robert Crist came out and he stared at him for approximately 45 seconds," she said. "Then he (Roeder) said, 'I've seen you now.' Then he turned his back and walked away, and they were scared to death. On the way out, he gave me a great big hug and he said, 'I've seen you in the newspaper. I just love what you're doing.'^"
Roeder also was a subscriber to Prayer and Action News, a magazine that advocated the justifiable homicide position, said publisher Dave Leach, an anti-abortion activist from Des Moines, Iowa.
"I met him once, and he wrote to me a few times," Leach said. "I remember that he was sympathetic to our cause, but I don't remember any details."
Leach said he met Roeder in Topeka when he went there to visit Shelley Shannon, who was in prison for the 1993 shooting of Tiller.
"He told me about a lot of conspiracy stuff and showed me how to take the magnetic strip out of a five-dollar bill," Leach said. "He said it was to keep the government from tracking your money."
Roeder, who in the 1990s was a manufacturing assemblyman, also was involved in the "Freemen" movement.
"Freemen" was a term adopted by those who claimed sovereignty from government jurisdiction and operated under their own legal system, which they called common-law courts. Adherents declared themselves exempt from laws, regulations and taxes and often filed liens against judges, prosecutors and others, claiming that money was owed to them as compensation.
In April 1996, Roeder was arrested in Topeka after Shawnee County sheriff's deputies stopped him for not having a proper license plate. In his car, officers said they found ammunition, a blasting cap, a fuse cord, a one-pound can of gunpowder and two 9-volt batteries, with one connected to a switch that could have been used to trigger a bomb.
Jim Jimerson, supervisor of the Kansas City ATF's bomb and arson unit, worked on the case.
"There wasn't enough there to blow up a building,'' Jimerson said at the time, ``but it could make several powerful pipe bombs...There was definitely enough there to kill somebody.''
Roeder, who then lived in Silver Lake, Kan., was stopped because he had an improper license plate that read "Sovereign private property. Immunity declared by law. Non-commercial American.'' Authorities said the plate was typical of those used by Freemen.
Roeder was arraigned on one count of criminal use of explosives and misdemeanor charges of driving on a suspended license, failure to carry a Kansas registration and failure to carry liability insurance.
He was found guilty and sentenced in June 1996 to 24 months of probation with intensive supervision and ordered to dissociate himself from anti-government groups that advocated violence.
But in December 1997, his probation ended six months early when the Kansas Court of Appeals overturned his conviction. The court held that evidence against Roeder was seized by authorities during an illegal search of his car.
Morris Wilson, commander of the Kansas Unorganized Citizens Militia in the mid-1990s, said he knew Roeder fairly well.
"I'd say he's a good ol' boy except he was just so fanatic about abortion," said Wilson, who now lives in western Nebraska. "He was always talking about how awful abortion was. But there's a lot of people who think abortion is awful."
Suzanne James, former director of victim's services for Shawnee County, said she remembered Roeder.
"He was part of the One Supreme Court, a Freemen group based out of Shawnee County," James said. "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."
In recent years, someone using the name Scott Roeder has posted anti-Tiller comments on various Internet sites. One post, dated Sept. 3, 2007 and placed on a site sponsored by Operation Rescue called chargetiller.com, said that Tiller needed to be "stopped."
"It seems as though what is happening in Kansas could be compared to the 'lawlessness' which is spoken of in the Bible," it said. "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."
On May 19, 2007, a Scott Roeder commented on an invitation by Operation Rescue to join an event being held May 17-20 in Wichita, "the 'Nation's Abortion Capital,' to pray for an end to George R. Tiller's late-term abortion business and for all pre-born babies everywhere to once again come under the protection of law."
The post said: "Bless 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 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."