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2009-06-03

Abortion Clinic Manager Reveals He Warned FBI of Suspect in Murder of Dr. George Tiller, Says Killing Could Have Been Avoided

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We speak to the manager of a Kansas City abortion clinic who says he twice told the FBI last week about the suspect in the murder of abortion provider Dr. George Tiller, including the day before the killing. The suspect, Scott Roeder, vandalized the Aid for Women clinic by locking its doors shut. Using the pseudonym "Jeff Pederson" to protect his identity, the clinic manager says Tiller’s death could have been avoided had the FBI acted on his warnings. [includes rush transcript]

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Did Dr. Tiller have to die? Today, we begin with explosive new information in the case of the murder of the abortion provider Dr. George Tiller. He was fatally shot Sunday while he attended services at his Wichita Reformation Lutheran Church in Kansas.

New information indicates that Scott Roeder, the man arrested and charged with first-degree murder for Dr. Tiller’s death, was seen vandalizing a Kansas City women’s health clinic called Aid for Women on two separate occasions last week, a week before Dr. Tiller was killed and a day before his murder.

The clinic manager, calls himself “Jeff Pederson” to protect his identity, says he called the FBI and local law enforcement, but the vandal, Scott, was not arrested.

The first incident was discovered on Memorial Day; the second, this past Saturday. That’s May 30th. Pederson and other clinic staff recognized the vandal as "Scott" from anti-abortion protests and gave the FBI his first name, his license plate number, and video footage of the incidents from a security camera at the clinic.

Pederson told me that FBI agent Mark Colburn told him, quote, “The Johnson County Prosecutor won’t do anything until the Grand Jury convenes.” Well, the next day was Sunday, when Dr. George Tiller was killed, allegedly by Scott Roeder.

I called the Kansas City FBI and reached Colburn, who referred me to FBI spokesperson Bridget Patton. I asked her why Scott Roeder had not been arrested when he vandalized the Kansas City clinic the day before.

    BRIDGET PATTON: [inaudible] was notified about vandalism that occurred at the clinic located within Kansas City, Kansas. Once we were notified, we responded to that clinic. We responded back to the notification, and that is currently an ongoing matter.

    AMY GOODMAN: And you were notified — were you notified on Memorial Day, as well as the Saturday, May 30th, before — the day before Dr. Tiller was killed?

    BRIDGET PATTON: Amy, I’m not sure of the timeline of when the notifications came in. But whenever an act of vandalism occurs at an abortion clinic, we are notified of that vandalism, and we respond and proceed appropriately.

    AMY GOODMAN: And were you notified more than once in two different incidents?

    BRIDGET PATTON: Honestly, Amy, I don’t have the answer to that.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Bridget Patton, FBI spokesperson in Kansas City about why the FBI did not respond to the two reports of vandalism at a women’s health clinic in Kansas City last week. The man who vandalized that clinic, Scott Roeder, has now been charged with the murder of Dr. Tiller.

Scott Roeder has a history of involvement in anti-abortion activism and has ties to the right-wing separatist group known as the Freemen. He was previously arrested and jailed on explosives charges.

Well, I’m now joined on the phone by the manager of the clinic that was vandalized. He’s calling himself “Jeff Pederson” to protect his identity.

Welcome to Democracy Now!, Jeff. Can you describe the first incident where you caught Scott on videotape, Memorial Day weekend, super-gluing your locks?

JEFFREY PEDERSON: Yeah. I was at home. One of my staff members came in to mow our yard. She tried to get into the building to take care of some other things and noticed that she couldn’t get in the front or back door. So she called me at home, and I was — it was Monday, the 25th, Memorial Day. And I just told her, you know, “I’ll take care of it later.” That was about 8:00 or 8:30 Monday. And I think I got out there about 1:00 or 2:00 in the afternoon and proceeded to take care of opening up the clinic.

And I did call FBI at that time, and I also did a call-in report to the local PD about it. But it was just, you know, a misdemeanor at this point. I didn’t think too much more of it. I didn’t have any video to give law enforcement yet, because it takes a while to review video. And it was Thursday morning sometime that I — I was only fifteen minutes into a tape when I finally saw him getting us at 9:47 on Saturday the 23rd.

AMY GOODMAN: So you reviewed the videotape that you had from Memorial Day weekend —-

JEFFREY PEDERSON: Right.

AMY GOODMAN: —- later in the week, and you then found the moment where this person you knew as Scott was super-gluing the locks?

JEFFREY PEDERSON: Yes, ma’am.

AMY GOODMAN: And did you call the police?

JEFFREY PEDERSON: Well, I had made the call-in report. This is just a misdemeanor. It’s typically just a call-in report, and I had made that call-in report on Monday.

AMY GOODMAN: So, you had the videotape then? You could see him?

JEFFREY PEDERSON: Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: And so, you knew who he was from being outside the clinic protesting?

JEFFREY PEDERSON: Yes, ma’am. He’s kind of tall. He’s hard to miss.

AMY GOODMAN: And you called the FBI, as well?

JEFFREY PEDERSON: On that Monday, yes.

AMY GOODMAN: And did you tell the FBI agent, Mark Colburn, that you knew who he was? And did he know who he was?

JEFFREY PEDERSON: Yes, because he had done the same thing in 2000 two weekends in a row.

AMY GOODMAN: And what did the FBI do in 2000, when Scott super-glued the locks?

JEFFREY PEDERSON: He had said at that time the pictures were too fuzzy, that they probably would not be able to get a conviction on it, but he would talk to him. And after that little talk, we didn’t see Scott for like six years.

AMY GOODMAN: You mean, after Colburn went and spoke to Scott. So he knew where he lived?

JEFFREY PEDERSON: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: He stopped. You don’t know what the interaction was.

JEFFREY PEDERSON: No idea.

AMY GOODMAN: And then he came back?

JEFFREY PEDERSON: It seemed to have worked.

AMY GOODMAN: So he knew exactly who he was, the FBI agent?

JEFFREY PEDERSON: He had to have, if he had the address.

AMY GOODMAN: And what did you think Scott’s name was?

JEFFREY PEDERSON: I just knew it was Scott. I had a different last name affixed to him, but I guess I was wrong. I don’t really want to go into that.

AMY GOODMAN: So, that was that weekend. That was Memorial Day weekend.

JEFFREY PEDERSON: Mm-hmm.

AMY GOODMAN: And what happened on Saturday, May 30th?

JEFFREY PEDERSON: Backing up a little bit, so Thursday I gave copies of the video to FBI. I didn’t give anything to the local PD yet. Saturday, I upgraded the video equipment so I’d have better pictures.

And then, eleven hours later, Scott watched one of my staff members come back from a convenience store. She went into the — she had seen the car, but didn’t think too much more of it, went into our building and locked back up. She was the only one there at the time. But through a window, she saw Scott get out of his vehicle, heading towards the building, and it looked like he was going towards the back door. So she made her way through the building to get to that back door, and she arrove there at the back door just as he was starting to super-glue it again.

And she chased him off and did manage to get his license plate number, and then she called me at home. And I called FBI — as soon as I got off the phone, I called FBI at about 6:10 a.m. on a Saturday, the 30th.

AMY GOODMAN: And you made the call?

JEFFREY PEDERSON: I made the call, and I went into voicemail, and I left —-

AMY GOODMAN: Who did you call?

JEFFREY PEDERSON: Same FBI agent.

AMY GOODMAN: You called Mark Colburn?

JEFFREY PEDERSON: Yeah, he’s my contact. And I left the license, and I said, you know, it’s the same guy from last weekend and the same guy from 2000. And my staff member gave the license plate, 225BAB. He called me back a couple hours later, and that’s when he told me that, you know, “Thank you,” but he’s pretty sure he’s not going to be able to do anything, because they’re going to require a grand jury and then, from that, then get a warrant to proceed.

AMY GOODMAN: Who’s going to require a grand jury?

JEFFREY PEDERSON: I thought he had said Johnson County prosecutor, because where he lives is Johnson County. We’re in Wyandotte. He was talking about Johnson County prosecutor, I believe.

AMY GOODMAN: Because that’s where Scott Roeder lived?

JEFFREY PEDERSON: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: Now, this time, you had bought new cameras, after he said the first weekend, Memorial Day weekend, they would be too fuzzy?

JEFFREY PEDERSON: Right. They’re older, black and white. Now I’ve got color, much higher resolution.

AMY GOODMAN: And so, now you had the videotape of this person named Scott again, and you told the FBI agent this.

JEFFREY PEDERSON: Right.

AMY GOODMAN: That you had higher-quality videotape.

JEFFREY PEDERSON: Yeah. I don’t know if I told him that I had higher-quality yet, but -— and I don’t know. Yeah, you’re right.

AMY GOODMAN: And so, the nurse, who had gone out to talk to him, at the car, what was that interaction like when she went out to speak to Scott Roeder?

JEFFREY PEDERSON: She had said, “Oh, I know you.” And that, I think, startled him a little bit. And then she proceeded to talk with him more. And I think he then didn’t think too much of the interaction, because we — she had called him by the last name that I presumed that it was, which was wrong. He says, “That’s not me, but I do know him.”

And then, she was, you know, “Why are you doing this? Women need this service.” And she proceeded to tell a whole lot of tear-jerking pro-choice stories of why women in need need to have this. And he kind of just was leaning up against his car, arms folded, legs crossed, and just kind of like, “Mm-hmm, mm-hmm, baby killer, baby killer.”

Eventually she worked her way up to the back of the vehicle, because in Kansas you only need a back license plate. And she did manage to get most of the license plate number, but then he moved around to hide the rest of the license plate. And so, she continued talking, and she jockeyed around until she got the last part of the number, and that’s when she ran into the clinic and just said, “Got your license plate. Got your license plate.” And he just kept saying, “Baby killer!” And he took off quickly after that.

AMY GOODMAN: So, the license plate was 225BAB, like “baby”?

JEFFREY PEDERSON: Right, right. And I have the piece of paper she wrote on, and she called me immediately.

AMY GOODMAN: And you gave this to the FBI and the local police?

JEFFREY PEDERSON: I hadn’t given that to the local yet. This is a separate incident. I have forty-eight hours to file it, so I was going to file it, you know, later. But I did leave it in the voicemail with FBI approximately 6:10 a.m.

AMY GOODMAN: Now, isn’t it a federal crime to interfere with access to a clinic, the FACE bill, the Federal Access for Clinic [Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances] bill?

JEFFREY PEDERSON: Yeah, I don’t know exactly how it’s worded. I know that they’ve got first offense, second offense, and three or more, something like that. So —-

AMY GOODMAN: Which is why you call the FBI, because it’s a federal offense.

JEFFREY PEDERSON: Right, right.

AMY GOODMAN: Actually, Bridget Patton, the spokesperson for the FBI, said that.

JEFFREY PEDERSON: Right.

AMY GOODMAN: That you’re supposed to call the FBI in every case.

JEFFREY PEDERSON: Right.

AMY GOODMAN: Were you alarmed that nothing was done?

JEFFREY PEDERSON: I was ticked off, but I know that the wheels of justice roll slowly. And so, I didn’t -— I can’t do anything. I don’t know what to do.

AMY GOODMAN: The next day, Sunday, tell us how you learned about Dr. Tiller’s death and then the connection to — well, you already know about the blue Taurus that Scott drove —-

JEFFREY PEDERSON: Right.

AMY GOODMAN: —- because your nurse had gone out to it.

JEFFREY PEDERSON: I had stepped out for a moment. A phone call from a close friend of mine from Wichita called. She had gotten access to this information, either from a police scanner or from something else — I’m not — from her friends. And she called me straightaway to tell me.

I then went through our phone tree calling all the staff, including my doctor, and then proceeded to call the other clinics, all the retired doctors who have done abortions in the past around here, and also called one other clinic out of state that I knew closely to tell them about the shooting.

AMY GOODMAN: And what was their response?

JEFFREY PEDERSON: They were all shocked. I mean, when I heard it, I was like, I’m hoping this is a non-fatal shot. And I was told that “shot dead?” I was like, “No, he’s shot. Yeah, I could see that. But shot dead?” And it was like I was hoping that it wasn’t the case.

AMY GOODMAN: In fact, you came to manage the Aid for Women clinic in Kansas City the same month that Dr. Tiller was shot in both arms, is that right, in 1993?

JEFFREY PEDERSON: Right, ’93. I think I started in August of ’93.

AMY GOODMAN: Which is when he was shot.

JEFFREY PEDERSON: Oh, OK. It’s so far back now, I can’t hardly remember. I just know it was sometime back then.

OK, I forgot what question we were on now.

AMY GOODMAN: On Sunday. On Sunday, when Dr. Tiller was killed, and they said they were then looking for a blue Taurus.

JEFFREY PEDERSON: Right. Well, I didn’t know about the car color yet. That hadn’t come across. This is — after I got through talking to all the staff and retired doctors and whatnot in the area, I believe it was around 11:30 that I called the FBI. And my impression from when I passed this on to my contact, that I don’t think Kansas City knew about it yet.

AMY GOODMAN: When you called the Kansas City police?

JEFFREY PEDERSON: No, the FBI. Because I think I had heard maybe — I don’t know exactly when Tiller was shot. I still haven’t got that figured out. But I believe I had been contacted about forty minutes after that. And it took me a while to go through my phone tree and contact everyone. And it was 11:30, I believe, when I contacted my FBI contact.

So that was that for them. And I was just doing stuff around the house. And then, about 1:00 or something, I get another phone call from my friend in Wichita, and she said the license — they’ve got the getaway car. They don’t know if there was a second person, but the license plate is 225BAB. And I just about fell on the floor.

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” I told her, you know. “That’s the guy who’s been gluing our locks.” And I says, “I’ve got to get off the phone. I’ve got to call my guy.” And she says, “Well, maybe I need to contact Tiller’s people. Maybe” — and then she said something about the Wichita police. And I think, “OK, I’ll call the Wichita police. What’s their number?” So she looked up in the phone book, and I then called and left a message with somebody down there.

In about twenty minutes or something, I don’t know, not very long, I was contacted by a detective from Wichita. And I gave her all my information I had, that he had got us in 2000, he got us on the 23rd, and then he got us, you know, the day before on the 30th. I gave her all this information, and I said I had pictures, that I gave them to — I think I gave her the local PD report number from the file on the 25th, and I gave her the phone number to my FBI contact, as well, so she could try to coordinate all that stuff. And then I went ahead and, somewhere in there — I don’t know if it was before or after I contacted Wichita and contacted my FBI contact —- probably about 4:00 or something, we had set up an appointment for the next day, so they could do a dump from my DVR and to interview my staff member, as well.

I started getting phone calls in Monday morning, just for general impressions, from a local news radio station AM, got another call from an NPR affiliate, just general impressions of the shooting. And about -—

AMY GOODMAN: Jeff, how far are you, how far is Kansas City? Aid for Women, your clinic, also has another name.

JEFFREY PEDERSON: Central Family Medicine.

AMY GOODMAN: Central Family Medicine. How far is it from Wichita?

JEFFREY PEDERSON: Three hours.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you think that if —-

JEFFREY PEDERSON: We used to drive it, because we -— our doctors used to work at one of the competing clinics in Wichita.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you think — and you knew Dr. Tiller?

JEFFREY PEDERSON: Oh, yeah. Very well.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you think if the authorities, local or federal authorities, had arrested Scott Roeder after Memorial Day or then again the day before Dr. Tiller’s murder, Dr. Tiller would be dead today?

JEFFREY PEDERSON: No. Since I didn’t know Scott’s background, to me, it was just a misdemeanor. It’s kind of like the burning bag of doggie stuff on the front porch, and you press the doorbell. It’s annoying as hell, and you’d like to string him up, but it doesn’t rise to the level of me shooting him. It was like, I don’t really know what to do, and I don’t know — you know, I didn’t have the information to tie everything together.

AMY GOODMAN: I guess that’s not your job. But what he was doing was trying to prevent access to your clinic by gluing the locks.

JEFFREY PEDERSON: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: Which is a federal offense.

JEFFREY PEDERSON: Right.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Jeff Pederson, thanks so much for being with us. I know you have to go back and guard your clinic, as you’re on duty today.

JEFFREY PEDERSON: Yes, ma’am.

AMY GOODMAN: Jeff Pederson, not his real name, but protecting himself. Why do you not use your real name, Jeff?

JEFFREY PEDERSON: Dr. Slepian was an indication they like to shoot people. They’re kind of — bit of cowardice there. They like to scare the family members as much as possible.

AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Slepian, gunned down Upstate New York.

JEFFREY PEDERSON: Yeah, through the kitchen window. I don’t care as much about myself, but I do care about my friends and family.

AMY GOODMAN: Jeff Pederson, thanks for being with us.

JEFFREY PEDERSON: Sure.

AMY GOODMAN: Manager of the Kansas City women’s health clinic known as Aid for Women, where he is working today.

JEFFREY PEDERSON: Thank you for calling.

AMY GOODMAN: Thank you.

This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, the War and Peace Report.

Well, there were grave concerns about the federal and local authorities not responding in Wichita, as well, to continued violations. We’ll speak with a doctor who would fly in to the Wichita clinic that Dr. Tiller ran and her concerns of the lack of federal and local action. And then we’ll talk about anti-abortion violence.

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