WICHITA, KAN. — The man charged in the slaying of a high-profile abortion doctor claimed from his jail cell Sunday that similar violence was planned around the nation for as long as the procedure remained legal, a threat that comes days after a federal investigation was launched into his possible accomplices.
A Justice Department spokesman said that the threat was being taken seriously and that additional protection had been ordered for abortion clinics last week.
But a leader of the antiabortion movement derided the accused shooter as "a fruit and a lunatic."
Scott Roeder called the Associated Press from the Sedgwick County Jail, where he's being held on charges of first-degree murder and aggravated assault in the May 31 shooting death of Dr. George Tiller.
"I know there are many other similar events planned around the country as long as abortion remains legal," said Roeder, 51. When asked what he meant and whether he was referring to another shooting, he refused to elaborate.
It wasn't clear whether Roeder knew of any impending violence or whether he was seeking publicity. Law enforcement authorities, including the Justice Department, said they didn't know whether the threat was credible.
Tiller's clinic in Wichita was among only a few in the U.S. that perform third-trimester abortions. Tiller was shot while serving as an usher at the Lutheran church he attended.
Asked Sunday if he shot Tiller, Roeder replied that he could not comment and said he needed to clear everything with his lawyer.
Justice Department spokesman Matthew Miller said in a written statement that "we take this matter seriously, which is why the attorney general ordered increased protection of appropriate people and facilities last week."
An attorney for the Tiller family, Dan Monnat, said he wasn't sure authorities should dignify Roeder's actions and threats with a response "every time he makes a harebrained phone call."