At first sight, Robert L Dear might seem like many thousands of other reclusive cabin-dwellers in deserted parts of America. In his late 50s, divorced, the man who shot three dead and injured 9 more in and around a Planned Parenthood abortion facility in Colorado Springs, was an entrepreneur who lived by commissioning and selling limited edition prints.
Dear also had a history of fracas and minor scrapes with the law. He had guns for hunting and self-protection and he was apparently a cannabis smoker who was so lonely that he advertised online for people to get high with.
Where a tighter gun control law might have picked up Dear as a potential risk is his online personals ad seeking women in North Carolina interested in bondage and sadomasochistic sex – the ads showed a picture that appeared to be Mr. Dear and used an online pseudonym associated with him.
Dear had been married but his divorce came after his wife called police at least once over domestic violence. That alone could have been evidence the man could not be trusted with a gun.
After his divorce, Mr. Dear lived in a succession of trailer homes and cabins, where he appeared to stir resentments among neighbors and lash out at people around him, according to police reports. Some former neighbors said they were not surprised by the violence in Colorado Springs.
In Swannanoa, N.C., where Mr. Dear had lived for a time in a single-wide trailer, a novelist, Leland Davis, said he had repeatedly been followed by Mr. Dear in a late-model Toyota Tacoma. Mr. Davis believed that Mr. Dear had followed him because he suspected that Mr. Davis had complained to the authorities about how Mr. Dear treated a dog. The men never spoke, Mr. Davis said in an interview in his home Saturday night, but Mr. Dear had mounted something of a scare campaign.
“He followed me all the way into downtown Asheville,” Mr. Davis said. “He followed me three or four times.”
In Black Mountain, N.C.,. Dear had a shooting lodge (a crude hut actually) miles along mountain roads. Scott Rupp, who sold it to him, worried about whether Mr. Dear would fit in the community, which was populated by “environmental types,” he said.
“He was like a mountain culture person,” Mr. Rupp told journalists, “and he was really excited to get a place where he could hunt.”
In 2002, in Walterboro, S.C., Mr. Dear was arrested on charges of breaking the state’s “Peeping Tom” law after a neighbor told the police that he had hidden in the bushes in an attempt to peer into her house. For months, the neighbor, Lynn Roberts, said, Mr. Dear was “making unwanted advancements” and “leering” at her on a regular basis, putting her “in fear of her safety,” according to an incident report.
The charge was later dismissed, but a restraining order was issued.
He also repeatedly had other run-ins with neighbors. One, Douglas Moore, said Mr. Dear had called him to threaten “bodily harm” because Mr. Dear believed Mr. Moore had pushed over his motorcycle, according to a police report in 2004. Two years earlier, after Mr. Moore called the police to report his dog’s being shot with a pellet gun, Mr. Dear told investigators, “Douglas was lucky that it was only a pellet that hit the dog and not a bigger round.”
President Obama on Saturday again called on America to tackle gun violence. “This is not normal,” he said in a statement. “We can’t let it become normal. If we truly care about this — if we’re going to offer up our thoughts and prayers again, for God knows how many times, with a truly clean conscience — then we have to do something about the easy accessibility of weapons of war on our streets to people who have no business wielding them.”
Mr. Dear, who surrendered to the police on Friday evening, remains in custody without bond at the El Paso County criminal justice center according to the New York Times. Law enforcement records and interviews began to paint a portrait of an itinerant loner who left behind a trail of disputes and occasionally violent acts toward neighbors and women he knew.
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