Longform

The Fight of Their Lives

Page 15 of 23

Noting that Denver Archbishop J. Francis Stafford was attempting to quell anti-abortion demonstrations so as not to detract from the Pope's visit, Hern added that it wouldn't be easy. "The Pope and his bishops have so harshly attacked abortion for so long, it has created a climate of permission for the most radical activists," he said. "Now, the church does not wish to take responsibility for the unpredictable, violent consequences of its rhetoric."

After reading Hern's piece, Randall Terry called Hern a "vulgar baby killer" on his syndicated radio show. "I hope someday he is tried for crimes against humanity, and I hope he is executed," said the Operation Rescue founder.

On August 14, Michael Griffin's former minister told his Birmingham, Alabama, congregation that the murder of abortion doctors was "justifiable homicide."

A day later, the doctor who had replaced Gunn at the clinic was found murdered in Birmingham. That crime has never been solved.

Denver-based talk-show host Bob Enyart used his syndicated show to repeatedly attack Hern and even published a magazine called How Warren Hern Does His Killing.

"When I showed this to a visiting psychologist in my office," Hern says, "I asked her, 'What do you think that the author of this headline wants the reader to do after he or she reads this?'

"She said, 'Kill you.'"
The calls to Hern's clinic got worse. On August 19, one stubborn caller who'd initially pretended she wanted an appointment finally admitted, "I want to know why the doctor kills the babies."

When the receptionist tried to get her name and telephone number, the woman replied, "I'm not going to tell you, bitch!" Another woman in the background yelled, "Tell the doctor he's a fucking asshole."

When Dr. George Tiller arrived at his Wichita clinic that same day, Oregon anti-abortion activist Shelly Shannon broke from the line of picketers and shot him in both arms.

Hern learned of the attack on his colleague from reporters, who were calling to get a comment. "Jesus," Hern says. "I thought about our trip to Berlin and I thought about his wife and family. He was my friend...I started crying."

Following Tiller's shooting, U.S. marshals were assigned to protect Hern for the next 72 hours. They were not pleased when the doctor told them he would be speaking at a candlelight ceremony on the steps of Boulder City Hall, and persuaded him to at least wear a bulletproof vest.

"Is it possible in the most pro-choice community in America," Hern asked the crowd that night, "for a doctor to walk a few blocks without armed guards to give a speech on the subject of abortion without the serious risk of assassination?

"The answer to that question is no. My next question is, 'Is this still America? And if not, why not?'"

Attending the ceremony that night was Mike Newell, who introduced himself to Hern. After seven years with the Denver Police Department, Newell had moved to California and started a business as a security consultant specializing in "stalker suppression." The key, Newell believed, was a proactive investigation--gathering evidence, such as violations of restraining orders, to make a court case, and intercepting the stalker before he got to the victim. Essentially, he advocated stalking the stalker.

Newell considered himself a "cause-motivated" professional: He wouldn't work for a cause or person he didn't believe in. And after he moved back to Denver in 1992, he was happy to take Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains as a client, assessing its security precautions before the Pope's visit.

Newell quickly picked out Ken Scott as someone to watch. Compared with other demonstrators, he was aggressive and excessively angry; he also seemed to enjoy intimidating people.

More alarming, Scott had repeatedly left the comfort of his particular group of disciples to strike out on his own. According to psychological profiling, independent actors are the most dangerous. Shelly Shannon, for example, had left her Oregon group and flown halfway across the country to shoot Tiller.

Newell gathered as much information as he could from Scott's friends, past and present. He heard the stories about the delight Scott took in stalking, and about his excellent marksmanship.

After the candlelight ceremony, Newell and Hern agreed to talk again regarding the doctor's security measures. "I was feeling very vulnerable," Hern recalls. "It felt good to have an ally, somebody who understood the mentality of these people and would do something about it. It felt empowering."

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Steve Jackson