Scott Roeder, Suspect in George Tiller Murder: Example of Domestic Terrorism?

By Javier Lavagnino, Esq. on June 01, 2009 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Catching up on news over the weekend that controvertial late-term abortion provider Dr. George Tiller was murdered over the weekend while ushering at church, the case has raised questions about the suspect Scott P. Roeder, such as whether this possibly was a foreseeable act by a "homegrown terrorist", and whether other groups foster or even encourage such assassinations.

FindLaw's Common Law blog had previously looked at Tiller's misdemeanor trial where he had been accused of breaking Kansas law by allegedly failing to get an independent doctor's second opinion for late-term abortions. Tiller ended up getting acquitted by a jury on those charges, but it is unknown whether this played any part in triggering the killing.

What is suggested, however, is that Roeder had a long-time interest in Tiller and perhaps a highly questionable background, the AP noted:

"In 1996, a 38-year-old man named Scott Roeder was charged in Topeka with criminal use of explosives for having bomb components in his car trunk and sentenced to 24 months of probation. However, his conviction was overturned on appeal the next year after a higher court said evidence against Roeder was seized by law enforcement officers during an illegal search of his car.

At the time, police said the FBI had identified Roeder as a member of the anti-government Freemen group, an organization that kept the FBI at bay in Jordan, Mont., for almost three months in 1995-96. Authorities on Sunday night would not immediately confirm if their suspect was the same man."

It seems clear that Scott Roeder was, at varying points in time, well-placed on authorities' radar, and his alleged membership in the Freemen, plus his interest in Dr. Tiller (suggested by his alleged postings on the Internet) would seem raise red flags in hindsight.

"Operation Rescue", on the one hand decried the murder calling it a "cowardly act" and distancing itself from Roeder (despite Roeder's alleged posting(s) on the group's site). On the other hand, the AP noted, Operation Rescue's founder Randall Terry called Tiller "a mass murderer...He was an evil man -- his hands were covered with blood." The Telegraph reported about another activist's point of view:

Dave Leach, an anti-abortion activist from Iowa, said Mr Roeder had contributed to his newsletter, Prayer and Action News, which argues that killing abortionists is justifiable homicide.

Mr Leach said that to call Mr Tiller's death a crime was "too simplistic... there is Christian scripture that would support this".

In light of the rhetoric, it's not surprising to see questions arise regarding whether this was an example of domestic terrorism at work, and whether groups fostering the belief or ideology that killing abortion providers is "justifiable homicide" can and/or should face prosecution, considering some make the claim based on their religious convictions. More on this as information is released...

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