June 1, 2009
Abortion Doctor Shot to Death in Kansas
By JOE STUMPE and
WICHITA, Kan. —
, one of only a few doctors in the nation who performed
abortions late in pregnancy, was shot to death here Sunday in the foyer of his longtime
church as he handed out the church bulletin.
The authorities said they took a man into custody later in the day after pulling him over
about 170 miles away on Interstate 35 near Kansas City. They said they expected to
charge him with murder on Monday.
The Wichita police said there were several witnesses to the killing, but law enforcement
officials would not say what had been said, if anything, inside the foyer. Officials offered
little insight into the motive, saying that they believed it was “the act of an isolated
individual” but that they were also looking into “his history, his family, his associates.”
A provider of abortions for more than three decades, Dr. Tiller, 67, had become a focal
point for those around the country who opposed it. In addition to protests outside his
clinic, his house and his church, Dr. Tiller had once seen his clinic bombed; in 1993, an
abortion opponent shot him in both arms. He was also the defendant in a series of legal
challenges intended to shut down his operations, including two grand juries that were
convened after citizen-led petition drives.
On Sunday morning, moments after services had begun at
Reformation Lutheran Church
Dr. Tiller, who was acting as an usher, was shot once with a handgun, the authorities
said. The gunman pointed the weapon at two people who tried to stop him, the police
said, then drove off in a powder-blue Taurus. Dr. Tiller’s wife, Jeanne, a member of the
church choir, was inside the sanctuary at the time of the shooting.
The police in Wichita described the man who was detained as a 51-year-old from