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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.