Abortion Protester Held in Doctor’s Murder at Clinic : Shooting: Death at Florida rally described as a first. Suspect reportedly said: ‘Don’t kill any more babies.’
A doctor was shot to death during a protest outside his abortion clinic on Wednesday, and an abortion protester who had prayed for him to “give his life to Jesus” calmly surrendered.
It was the first fatality ever reported at an abortion protest, abortion-rights activists said.
Dr. David Gunn, 47, was shot several times in the back as he got out of his car at the Pensacola Women’s Medical Services clinic he operated, police said. Gunn died in surgery hours later.
At the time of the shooting, a dozen anti-abortion protesters were gathered in front of the clinic, Sgt. Jerry Potts said.
Michael Frederick Griffin, 31, of Pensacola was arrested and charged with murder, Potts said.
Don Treshman, head of the anti-abortion group Rescue America in Houston, said Griffin told the doctor: “Don’t kill any more babies!” just before the shooting about 10 a.m.
Potts refused to confirm the shooting was abortion-related. “I don’t want to speculate, but it occurred while a protest was going on,” he said.
During a service Sunday, Griffin had offered a prayer for the doctor at the Whitfield Assembly of God Church outside Pensacola, said John Burt, a lay preacher who led the protest.
“He asked that the congregation pray, and asked that we would agree with him that Dr. Gunn would give his life to Jesus Christ,” Burt said. “He wanted him to stop doing things the Bible says is wrong and start doing what the Bible says was right.”
Griffin, dressed in a gray suit “like he was going to church,” walked up to police officers after the shooting and said: “ ‘I’ve just shot Dr. Gunn,’ ” Burt said.
Police said the weapon appeared to be a .38-caliber snub-nosed revolver.
Treshman said his group is raising money to help Griffin’s wife and two daughters, not for a legal defense fund. Griffin apparently worked in a chemical plant.
“We know that the abortionist is well taken care of. But there is a financial strain for the assailant.” Treshman said. “We felt it was appropriate to help raise money for this crisis.”
The shooting came at a time when abortion-rights activists have reported new tactics by opponents against clinics, including increasing use of noxious chemicals. In San Diego this week, anti-abortion activists sprayed five clinics with a foul-smelling substance, police said.
In January, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that federal judges cannot stop protesters from trying to block access to clinics.
Although clinics have been bombed and abortion providers threatened with death, no one has ever been slain at an abortion protest, according to Sara Pines, a spokeswoman for the National Abortion Rights Action League.
“We call on Congress to immediately enact the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances bill to combat anti-choice terrorism and enact the Freedom of Choice Act to guarantee American women their legal right to choose,” league President, Kate Michelman, said in a statement after the shooting.
Gunn had been receiving death threats for several years but they had recently become more blatant and vicious, said Susan Hill, who employed the doctor at some of the National Women’s Health Organization clinics she runs in the Southeast, although the Pensacola facility was not one of hers.
Last summer in Montgomery, Ala., a “wanted poster” of Gunn was distributed at a rally for Operation Rescue leader Randall Terry. The poster included a picture of Gunn, his home phone number and other identifying information. The posters were designed to encourage anti-abortion workers to harass doctors working at clinics operated by Gunn in Alabama.
An Operation Rescue spokeswoman said the anti-abortion group knew nothing about the posters and hadn’t printed them.
“Our commitment to the dignity of life stands for the born as well as the unborn,” Pastor Keith Tucci, executive director of Operation Rescue, said in a news release expressing sorrow over Gunn’s death.