The Hatewatch blog is managed by the staff of the Intelligence Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama-based civil rights organization.

Alleged Killer of Abortion Doctor Has Decades-Long History of Extremism

By David Holthouse on June 1, 2009 - 11:34 am, Posted in Militias, Sovereign Citizens

The man suspected of fatally shooting abortion provider George Tiller as Tiller served as an usher during church services yesterday has a long history of involvement with the anti-government “sovereign citizen” movement, as well as anti-abortion radicalism.

Scott Roeder, 51, allegedly killed Tiller with a single shot in the foyer of the Reformation Lutheran Church in Wichita, Kan. Roeder was taken into custody a few hours later in Kansas City and is being held without bail.

Roeder’s arrest is further evidence of a resurgence of right-wing extremism. A recent Department of Homeland Security report came under severe criticism from the right for making the point that such extremism is likely on the rise.

Roeder’s support of violent extremism dates back at least as far as April 1996, when police in Topeka, Kan. pulled him over for driving with a bogus license plate. Instead of a legitimate license plate his vehicle bore a “sovereign citizen” plate that proclaimed the driver immune from state and federal laws.

The same type of tag was being used by members of the Montana Freemen, a violent sovereign citizen group that at the time was involved in a prolonged armed standoff with federal agents in Montana.

In Roeder’s trunk, investigators found a pound of gunpowder, a nine-volt battery wired to a switch, ammunition and blasting caps.

Since his 1996 arrest, Roeder seems to have focused primarily on anti-abortion radicalism, including several posts in recent years proposing a confrontation with Dr. Tiller inside Tiller’s church.

“Bless everyone for attending and praying in May to bring justice to Tiller and the closing of his death camp,” Roeder posted to the website of the anti-abortion group Operation Rescue in May 2007. “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.”

Roeder isn’t the only link between the militant anti-abortion movement and the Freemen. During the 1996 standoff, the Rev. W.N. Otwell, who called America a “white man’s country” and led camouflage-clad followers in protests of abortion clinics, traveled from his Texas compound to support the Montana Freemen in their 81-day armed standoff.

Dr. Tiller is the eighth abortion provider to be assassinated since 1977, according to the National Abortion Federation. Fifteen years ago, his name appeared atop a “hit list” that was circulated among pro-life militants.

  • Evan

    Hey Doug:

    Your Gentle Ben just confessed.

    The only one with egg on his face is you.

  • Cynthia

    It seems like everyone just hates everyone now days. No one cares about anyone anymore. Also, there are a lot of children born everyday to parents that are extremests. So, the cycle will never end. This is something that we’ll either have to tolerate for our whole lifes or do something about. This website is amazing.

  • doug

    you need to wait before you lambast scott, do you know him personally? has he been convicted yet? no he hasnt you nose picking couch lizards can’t wait to smear a man before you have real evidence, i have known the accused for 12 plus years and know of not a gentler man arent you going to have egg on your face when he is proven innocent and he sues you for defammation

  • Alison

    Will the SPLC be investigating hate groups like Operation Rescue and covering their antics in The Intelligence Report? This group is an extremist organization that exhorts bullying, harassment and intimidation tactics, against people who disagree with them and their views. They defend their actions with religious texts and seek to implement religious law. I see no difference between Klan claims that whites are superior to Jews and brown people and these “Operation Rescue” (an ironic name considering that after they rescue the fetus and she grows into a woman the only interest they then have in her is in controlling the contents of her uterus or the person she is allowed to marry) people who feel that they are superior to “murderers and abortionists who reap what they have sown” after their followers have murdered them. They publish the names and home addresses of doctors for their followers! Surely that is terrorist harassment?

  • Carrie

    You people constantly embellish and distort facts that may leave one with the impression that minorities and others are under constant threat from whites and/or christians. How much “hate” does this potentially incite?

  • Jean Gauld-Jaeger

    Extremism of any kind, on the left or the right, is dangerous. When we label the opposition as “scum” we dehumanize them. After that, we feel justified in taking any reprehensible action against them because, after all, they are not really human.

  • Marysia

    I am prolife, and that means every life, whether unborn or already born. That includes the lives of abortion providers.

    like many likeminded folks, I’m heartsick over Dr. Tiller’s murder and the ones that preceded his killing. And over the climate of hatred and dehumanization towards prochoicers that gives rise to people who advocate these killings.

    Thank you for this history on Scott Roeder. It does make me wonder how this history can be used to help prevent similar crimes in the future.

    For example, how was someone with this known history of violent ideology *he acted upon before* able to get his hands on a handgun? What does this say about our collective failures of gun control, and what can be done to fix them?

    The same with the man who apparently the day after Dr. Tiller’s killing, shot and killed a military recruiter, saying that this was revenge for Muslims killed in the war. he was known to the fbi for his islamicist activites. so how did he get a gun?

  • John Molina plays a very important role in exposing racism, nativism, and related intolerance. HOWEVER, please, please, please, let’s be a little more thorough in our information. SCOTT ROEDER was arrested, but he was never convicted because it was an illegal search (SOMETHING WE SHOULD ALL BE CONCERNED ABOUT).

  • Pam

    Article: “A recent Department of Homeland Security report came under severe criticism from the right for making the point that such extremism is likely on the rise.”

    The GOPers had a fit over this report. I find it very, very strange that the righties simply canNOT see how their racist words and actions can affect people.

    The mcpalin campaign incited racism at stump speeches against our president, providing a platform for hate speech, and fearmongering. Not ONE member of the GOP said, hey-knock that crap off. They allowed it, which means they approved it. Ironically, palin came out against the murder of Dr. Tller, ah…but…it’s a little late.

    This Homeland Security report was correct, and I do not know why anyone would ever apologize for warning the country–we knew these fringe creeps were out there. Unfortunately, we were right.

    The Faux News crew, along with all their contributors, and limbaugh, seriously need to be regulated. The hate they spew daily is flat scary.

  • Alexander

    Duh suprise , a christian zealot who is a anti-abortion extremists has of course extermist connections like all the scums in pro-life “movement”

  • Kevin

    These people are indeed extremists. I will go one step more and call these individuals and Operation Rescue, for example, both terrorists and terrorist organizations.

    The FBI needs to look at these groups as terrorist groups and not merely extremist organizations. Their violent acts of murder and threats, coercion, intimidation, and lawlessness put these people into the terrorist category.

    The moral high ground should never be ceded to these types of people who use terror attacks in their attempt to close down abortion clinics–which is a classic example of the way terrorists act.

  • Kathleen Bergman

    I am so proud to be a monthly supporter of SPLC. Dr. Tiller’s alleged assailant lived in Merriam, KS, only 5 miles from where I live. We are forever grateful for your tireless efforts in researching these hate groups. Many of us morn another loss due to hate and intolerance. Be assured we do not take SPLC for granted. In our daily lives, we try to be vigilant in being role models for tolerance. As a member of SPLC, I feel a duty to do my part even if it is simply refusing racist emails from acquaintances. Thank you my brothers and sisters for your courage, stamina, and strength in striving toward tolerance.

  • Dawn/FFL

    Wow, Thanks for this information.. Their is a history to us all and some speaks loudly about the direction we will travel.