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Late-Term Abortion Provider George Tiller Killed in Wichita Church
The statement also said "George dedicated his life to providing women with high-quality health care despite frequent threats and violence."
Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said last night that he had ordered the U.S. Marshals Service "to offer protection to other appropriate people and facilities around the nation." He added: "As a precautionary measure, we will also take appropriate steps to help prevent any related acts of violence from occurring."
Activists on both sides of the issue denounced the attack.
"Dr. Tiller's murder will send a chill down the spines of the brave and courageous providers and other professionals who are part of reproductive-health centers that serve women across this country," said Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, who pledged support for "providing these essential services."
Operation Rescue President Troy Newman, whose group is based in Wichita and whose Web site carries a "Tiller Watch" feature, said he was "shocked" by the killing.
"Operation Rescue has worked for years through peaceful, legal means, and through the proper channels to see him brought to justice," Newman said in a statement. "We denounce vigilantism and the cowardly act that took place this morning."
But Randall Terry, founder of Operation Rescue, called Tiller "a mass murderer" and added: "We grieve for him that he did not have time to properly prepare his soul to face God."
A posting from May 2007 on Operation Rescue's Web site, from a person identifying himself as "Scott Roeder," sought volunteers to "attend Tillers church (inside, not just outside)" to "ask questions of the Pastor, Deacons, Elders and members. . . . Doesn't seem like it would hurt anything but bring more attention to Tiller."
Tiller was shot just after 10 a.m. services began at Reformation Lutheran Church, where he was handing out bulletins in the church lobby.
Adam Watkins, 20, told the Associated Press that he was sitting in the middle of the congregation when he heard a small pop at the start of the service.
"We just thought a child had come in with a balloon and it had popped, had gone up and hit the ceiling and popped," Watkins said.
Another usher came in and told the congregation to remain seated, then escorted Tiller's wife, Jeanne, out. "When she got to the back doors, we heard her scream, and so we knew something bad had happened," Watkins said.