Anti-abortion activist killed near Mich.

iVillage Member
Registered: 12-03-2005
Anti-abortion activist killed near Mich.
Fri, 09-11-2009 - 8:48pm

Just wondering how everyone felt about this.

Anti-abortion activist killed near Mich. school Second man also shot dead at nearby business; suspect arrested

updated 1 hour, 24 minutes ago

OWOSSO, Mich. - A man carrying grudges against several people set off on a shooting spree Friday morning, authorities said, killing an abortion protester outside a high school because he didn't like the activist holding a sign with graphic images of a fetus in front of students.

The gunman drove next to a gravel pit business and shot and killed the owner, who apparently also upset him, police said. Authorities believe they stopped a third slaying by catching up with the gunman before he could kill again.

"The defendant had ill will toward these three individuals — not for the same reason necessarily, but had a grudge," said Shiawassee County Prosecutor Randy Colbry.

Police charged Harlan James Drake, 33, with first-degree murder. He was arraigned by video without an attorney and ordered held without bond. Authorities said he was a truck driver who mostly lived on the road in his cab and had family in the area, but they were mystified by what may have led him to kill.

"Out of a two-month period, he might be here for two days. We have no history of local contact with him," said sheriff's Det. Lt. David Kirk. "It becomes a mystery to us why today all of this transpired."

The shootings started around 7:20 a.m. across the street at Owosso High School, as parents dropped off students before class. James Pouillon, a well-known activist in the town, was standing across the street with a sign that pictured a chubby-cheeked baby with the word "LIFE" on one side and an image of an aborted fetus with the word "ABORTION" on the other.

Pouillon, known as "the sign man" for his years of in-your-face protests against abortion, was a polarizing figure in Owosso, a town of 15,000 best known as the birthplace of 1948 Republican presidential candidate Thomas Dewey. While inhaling oxygen from a small tank, he could usually be seen with his anti-abortion signs outside schools, the library, city hall, even football games.

"His dedication to his cause was unprecedented," said Tony Young, who tangled with Pouillon during protests outside his car dealership.

The county's chief assistant prosecutor, Sara Edwards, said there didn't appear to be a "triggering event" but Pouillon's presence outside the school seemed to aggravate Drake. It was "the fact that he was outside the high school with his signs in front of children going to school," she said.

The shots came as students and some horrified parents and students watched. The gunman fired several shots from the window of his vehicle as he drove past the school, authorities said.

"I was reading the paper and heard four shots," said Janet Drake, 68, who lives across from the school and is no relation to the alleged gunman. "Those kids have problems with their cars. I thought it was a backfire."

Drake then drove drove seven miles and down a dead-end country road to Fuoss Gravel Co. and killed Mike Fuoss, 61, who owned the gravel business, said Colbry. The two men knew each other, but authorities didn't detail what may have led to his slaying.

Someone wrote down Drake's license plate number after Pouillon's shooting and called police, who arrested him before he could fulfill a plan to kill a third man in town, Colbry said. Drake told authorities he was involved in Fuoss' slaying when they questioned him, authorities said.

Linda Strieff was Fuoss' longtime neighbor, and stared at the roped-off crime scene in disbelief.

"That's what's puzzling everybody," Strieff said. "What happened? Why'd the guy snap?"

The shootings come a little more than three months after the slaying of late-term abortion provider George Tiller at his Kansas church. A man with a long history of anti-abortion views, Scott Roeder, has pleaded not guilty to the slaying, and has told The Associated Press that Tiller's killing was justified to save "the lives of unborn children."

 Jim Pouillon


In an August 2002 photo, Jim Pouillon, left, has a heated discussion with a Planned Parenthood employee in Owosso, Mich.

Operation Rescue president Troy Newman said Pouillon was a member of the anti-abortion group, adding that he wept Friday when he received word that his friend had been killed. "He was just a kind, gentle man who loved life and endeavored to save other people's lives," Newman said.

The Rev. Rodger DeVore, pastor of the Church of the Nazarene, said Pouillon never seemed to tire and even protested outside the church.

"He did not attend a church because he felt pastors were not strong enough in their defense of the aborted child," DeVore said. "I told him, 'Jim, everyone has to fight in their own armor. You have your approach and we have our approach.' We agreed to disagree."

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Pouillon protested for years in front of Tony Young's car dealership, Young Chevrolet Cadillac, holding up anti-abortion slogans and graphic photos. The Michigan Court of Appeals in 1997 struck down a preliminary injunction restricting the protests and he continued until about five years ago.

"This is a guy who put himself out there every day ... for a cause he believed in, and (he) took a hell of a lot of abuse," said lawyer Michael Gildner, who represented Pouillon in a case that reached the federal appeals court. "It angered people, upset people on occasion. That's what free speech is all about."


~~~Ever mind the rule of three, Three times what thou givest returns to thee..This lesson well thou must learn. Thee only gets what thou doest earn.~~~~

iVillage Member
Registered: 06-24-2009
Tue, 09-15-2009 - 9:05am

I think that it's a tragedy.

It doesn't appear to be politically motivated assassinations, but the actions of a disturbed individual towards more than one person that "bothered him."

The other victim appeared to have no connection to the Pro-life movement, and was nowhere near a protest.

In the article, there appears to be no history of the shooter being involved with the pro-choice movement, or any history of him harassing or targeting Pro-lifers, or pro-life events. (Unlike Tiller's assassin who a history of harassment and vandalism of Tiller's clinic.)

However, I think that PL organizations will portray the protestor as a martyr, and will point to this as "violence by a Pro-choicer against a peaceful Pro-life demonstrator."

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-07-2008
Tue, 09-15-2009 - 7:27am
You beat me to it. Ditto.
iVillage Member
Registered: 03-07-2008
Tue, 09-15-2009 - 7:26am
It's disgraceful. Like any other murder. I don't, however, think it was all politically motivated. Unless the owner of the gravel pit was a protester as well. If he was, then I can buy the completely political angle. If not, it's a very sad thing but not a targeted attack in the same way as Dr. Tiller, for example.
iVillage Member
Registered: 01-13-2006
Tue, 09-15-2009 - 2:24am

"It's very sad when anyone gets shot by a lunatic...

IOW I think, unlike Dr Tiller's murder, this murder was lunacy-based rather than politics/religion-based."

Yes! I agree with your assessment.

"It is right to be contented with what we have, but never with what we are."
- James MacKintosh, Scottish Philosopher

"It is right to be contented with what we have, but never with what we are."

iVillage Member
Registered: 11-29-2005
Mon, 09-14-2009 - 6:45am

IOW I think, unlike Dr Tiller's murder, this murder was lunacy-based rather than politics/religion-based.

I tend to agree Lianne.



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iVillage Member
Registered: 02-06-2009
Mon, 09-14-2009 - 6:18am

I think it's an awful thing to happen, but the killer was obviously not just targeting anti-abortionists. It's very sad when anyone gets shot by a lunatic, and I hope the killer is put away for life.

IOW I think, unlike Dr Tiller's murder, this murder was lunacy-based rather than politics/religion-based.

iVillage Member
Registered: 01-22-2009
Sun, 09-13-2009 - 2:26pm
My thoughts exactly.


iVillage Member
Registered: 11-29-2005
Fri, 09-11-2009 - 9:08pm

How do I feel about it?

It's as disturbing as any other murders.

I don't like those anti-abortion protesters tactics with the nasty posters, but I would prefer to stop their demonstrations w/ legal means.


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