“Pro life”.. *claps*
President Obama said this afternoon that he was “shocked and outraged” by the killing of abortion doctor George Tiller, who was shot while attending church in east Wichita.
Wichita Deputy Police Chief Tom Stolz said at a news conference late this afternoon that a suspect in the shooting was in custody and on his way back to Wichita.
“However profound our differences as Americans over difficult issues such as abortion, they cannot be resolved by heinous acts of violence,” the president said in a statement issued by the White House.
The suspect, a 51-year-old male, was arrested without incident on I-35 in Johnson County about three hours after the shooting, Stolz said.
Police did not release the suspect’s name.
The investigation is in its “infancy stages,” Stolz said. He said the shooting appeared to be an isolated act.
Tiller, 67, was shot once just after 10 a.m. in the lobby of Reformation Lutheran Church at 7601 E. 13th St., where he was a member of the congregation.
Stolz said Tiller was shot in the foyer of the church. There were three or four eyewitnesses, he said. Six to 12 people were in the foyer at the time of the shooting.
Two men attempted to apprehend the suspect, but he pointed a gun at them and threatened them before fleeing, Stolz said.
The suspect’s car — a powder blue Ford Taurus registered to an owner in Merriam — was spotted just south of Gardner by two Johnson County Sheriff’s deputies. The Sheriff’s Office had suspected that the man would be coming back to his home on I-35, and the deputies waited for him.
As the car was spotted going north on the highway, the deputies followed and were quickly joined by three other sheriff’s patrol cars.
Lt. Mike Pfannenstiel of the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office said officers pulled the car over just south of the main Gardner exit and got out with guns drawn. The man then got out of his car with his hands up.
“We took him down without incident,” Pfannenstiel said, adding that the man appeared to be driving the speed limit and made no attempt to elude the deputies.
Stolz said police anticipate the suspect will be charged with murder and two counts of aggravated assault. Investigators will present the case to the Sedgwick County District Attorney’s Office on Monday.
The District Attorney’s Office will determine what charges will be filed, Stolz said. Federal charges are also a possibility, he said.
Tiller was serving as an usher at the church, one of six ushers listed in the church bulletin. He was handing out bulletins to people going into the sanctuary minutes before being shot.
Tiller’s family issued a statement through Wichita attorneys Dan Monnat and Lee Thompson:
“Today we mourn the loss of our husband, father and grandfather. Today’s event is an unspeakable tragedy for all of us and for George’s friends and patients.
“This is particularly heart wrenching because George was shot down in his house of worship, a place of peace.”
Wichita police Capt. Brent Allred said that several law enforcement agencies — including the FBI and the KBI — have been called in to help with the case.
Allred said the 10 a.m. church service had already begun at the time of the shooting.
Homicide detectives and Sedgwick County District Attorney Nola Foulston arrived at the church after the shooting.
Members of the congregation who were inside the sanctuary at the time of the shooting were kept inside by police, and those arriving were ushered into the parking lot immediately after the shooting.
Witnesses later were transported downtown for interviews and other members of the congregation were slowly released from inside the sanctuary.