DENVER - Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains should have taken greater steps to protect its clients from the Nov. 27 shooting in Colorado Springs that left three people dead and nine others wounded, according to a lawsuit filed Friday in Denver District Court.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Samantha Wagner, who was shot in the arm during the shooting, and the widow and young son of Ke'Arre Stewart, who was shot and killed close to the clinic's front door.
"Unlike the terrible tragedies at Sandy Hook and Aurora, where there really was no notice, there really was no awareness on the part of those businesses that something like that could happen, unlike those, this shooting was - given the threat level - was predictable," said Kirk McCormick, attorney representing Wagner. "On the day and the time of these shootings where over 16 people were shot and three were killed, Planned Parenthood did not have any security in place to address this threat."
Whitney Phillips, director of communications for Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, said in a statement she couldn't comment on ongoing litigation.
"The violent attack of Nov. 27, 2015 had a tremendous impact on our staff, our patients and our larger community," she said. "We believe that our health centers throughout the Rocky Mountain region are both safe and inviting for our patients and our staff who care for them. The safety of our patients, staff, and facilities is, and always has been, a priority for us."
Other Planned Parenthood clinics, including a larger facility in Denver, had armed guards, tall gates and audio and video surveillance, McCormick said.
McCormick cited a decades-long history of violence against the organization, including thousands of threats and hundreds of attacks such as arsons, bombings and killings of doctors and staff. The FBI sent abortion providers an alert just two months before the shooting, warning of the increased likelihood of violence. Yet, the lawsuit says, the clinic failed to properly train employees or post signs warning of potential danger.
"They were on notice. They should have had appropriate security in place, and they just didn't have any," McCormick said.
A judge ruled on May 11 that admitted shooter Robert Lewis Dear Jr. is not mentally fit to stand trial. Dear was sent to a state mental health facility for treatment, effectively pausing his trial.
Dear, 58, is accused of killing Stewart, 29, University of Colorado at Colorado Springs Officer Garrett Swasey and Jennifer Markovsky, 35. Dear faces 179 counts, including eight charges of first-degree murder.
Dear allegedly injured several civilians and offers during an hours-long standoff at the clinic. Police tore through the clinics walls to rescue victims hiding from the shooter.
Wagner, who was shot in the parking lot of the clinic, is seeking damages to help cover her medical expenses, lost wages and emotional damages, the Denver Post reported. Stewart is also seeking economic and non-economic damages, according to the Post.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.