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Harlan James DRAKE





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: The first time an activist had ever been murdered while protesting abortion
Number of victims: 2
Date of murder: September 11, 2009
Date of arrest: Same day
Date of birth: March 8, 1976
Victim profile: Michael Fuoss, 61 / James Lawrence Pouillon, 63 (anti-abortion activist)
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: Owosso, Shiawassee County, Michigan, USA
Status: Sentenced to two life sentences in prison on April 22, 2010
photo gallery

The murder of Jim Pouillon occurred on September 11, 2009, when pro-life activist James Pouillon was shot dead while protesting abortion in front of Owosso High School in Owosso, Michigan.

It was evidently the first time an activist had ever been murdered while protesting abortion. Soon after the shooting, police were alerted to another murder, that of local businessman Michael Fuoss, which they linked to Pouillon's killer.

Police arrested Harlan James Drake and charged him with both crimes. Drake was later declared fit to stand trial, where he was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder, and was subsequently sentenced to two life sentences.


Jim Pouillon was a well-known Michigan activist and member of Operation Save America. An elderly man dependent on oxygen tank to breathe, he had been protesting abortion since 1988. On the day he was shot, Pouillon was leading a protest across the street from Owosso High School in Owosso, Michigan.

Shooting and arrest

During the protest, Pouillon was shot at 7:20 a.m. EDST by a gunman in a passing vehicle. One witness recorded the vehicle's license plate number. Meanwhile, police were alerted to another murder, of businessman Michael Fuoss at a gravel business he owned. An hour after Pouillon's shooting, police located and arrested the owner of the vehicle, Harlan James Drake. Drake indicated he had shot both victims.

Pouillon's murder was evidently the first time an activist had ever been killed while protesting abortion. Authorities said Fuoss was not connected to the pro-life movement. Police said Drake was offended by pro-life material that Pouillon had displayed across from the school for the previous week. A Center for Reproductive Rights spokesperson said the shooting did not seem to be tied to the abortion debate.


While in custody awaiting trial, Drake attempted suicide by breaking a TV and using the broken glass to cut his wrists. Drake was later declared fit to stand trial. In 2004, Drake was involved — but not legally responsible — in a motor-vehicle accident that killed two teenagers.

Drake's attorney, Robert Ashley, argued that Drake suffered from depression stemming from the crash and was therefore mentally incompetent at the time of the murders. Drake testified about how he committed the murder, and even cracked jokes during his testimony. His testimony proved to be very damning to his case. On March 11, 2010, the jury returned a verdict of guilty on both counts of first-degree murder.

On September 30, 2009 Drake was deemed incompetent to stand trial and was remanded into the custody of the Michigan Department of Mental Health. On April 22, 2010, Drake received life imprisonment and expressed no remorse for any pain caused to the families. Drake himself said he should go to jail "forever."


Several pro-life groups and leaders have deemed Pouillon a martyr. Lori Lamerand, president of Planned Parenthood East Central Michigan, stated the killing was tragic and expressed concerns people would retaliate. President Barack Obama has called the killing "deplorable" and stated that, "whichever side of a public debate you're on, violence is never the right answer." Pouillon's funeral was held at the Owosso High School football stadium.

Soon after the murder Pouillon's estranged son James M. Pouillon, a podiatrist in Grand Rapids, criticized his father in an online post. This post, which was quickly circulated in the media, attributed Pouillon's activism to a "pathological hatred of women" and explained that "He did this to stalk, harass, terrorize, scream at, threaten, frighten, and verbally abuse women... He was at the high school because my niece was there, and female family members were always his favorite targets." It stated that Pouillon's goal was "to make someone so angry, to make them feel so terrorized, to make them feel the only way they could make him stop was to kill him." It concluded that "Owosso is now rid of a madman."

Pouillon's daughter Mary Jo offered a different image of her father, saying "He didn't want to hurt anyone that hadn't hurt him or his family." Mary Jo Pouillon sang in a memorial service that drew anti-abortion activists from across the country.

The right-to-life organization Operation Rescue named Pouillon "Person of the Year" for 2009.


Harlan Drake says he deserved to go to jail 'forever' before sentencing in murder trial

By Laura Angus - Flint Journal

April 22, 2010

CORUNNA, Michigan — Harlan Drake told a court that he deserved to go to jail “forever” for killing two men but took offense when the judge called him a “hitman.”

“Coming from a hypocrite and a racist, I really appreciate that, judge,” said Drake, who unexpectently returned to his seat as courthouse guards moved to surround him.

Drake, 34, was sentenced to mandatory life in prison Thursday for killing anti-abortion activist James Pouillon and gravel pit owner Michael Fuoss on Sept. 11, 2009.

Shiawassee Circuit Judge Gerald D. Lostracco said the case was not about abortion, but about Drake’s desire to be a “hitman” to settle grudges.

“As you go off to prison today, you’re certainly no hero in anyone’s book,” said Lostracco, who also said he wished he could sentence Drake to hard labor.

The former longhaul truck driver showed no emotion as family members of Pouillon and Fuoss told him Thursday that he never deserved to be free again.

“Mr. Drake, you took away my (grandpa), the person who I trusted most,” said Holly Pouillon, reading a statement written by her 16-year-old daughter, Madison.

“I wish you would have gotten to know him as a man, not just hate.”

Madison Pouillon, 16, said her grandfather dropped her off at Owosso High School just minutes before the shooting. Her mother took over reading the story after Madison broke down in tears as she talked about her grandfather’s favorite songs.

Madison wrote that her grandfather would miss her first prom and never get to “meet or harass” her first boyfriend, but wrote that she and her grandfather forgive Drake and she plans to follow in Pouillon’s footsteps by standing up for her beliefs.

Fuoss’ brother, James Fuoss, 58, of Owosso, said his mother has dementia and hasn’t retained the memory of her son’s murder.

“Every time she hears about it, it’s like the first time over and over and over again,” said Fuoss.

Despite Drake’s comments during the trial that Michael Fuoss was not a nice man, James Fuoss said his brother was a kind man who cared for his wife who had terminal brain cancer. She died in earlier this month, he said.

He also said it was hard for him and his family see Michael Fuoss and be unable to recognize him in his casket because Drake had shot him more than a dozen times.

“I don’t think I could ever forgive Harlan Drake or his family,” James Fuoss said.

Drake apologized to both families for the pain he has caused them.

“They don’t deserve the pain they feel,” said Drake.

Drake’s attorney, Robert Ashley, called the sentencing the last chapter in a “very tragic story” and said Drake’s reaction to the judge’s comments was a reflection of his mental illness.

Ashley had unsuccessfully argued at Drake’s two-week trial last month that Drake was legally insane when he shot Pouillon and Fuoss.

Drake was convicted March 11 of two counts of first-degree premeditated murder, felony firearm and carrying a weapon with unlawful intent. In addition to life, he was given two years on the felony firearm charges and three years four months to five years in prison on the weapons charge.

Drake’s family was not in the courtroom during the sentencing at Drake’s request, said Ashley.

Ashley said he has no knowledge of Drake’s intentions concerning an appeal and said he would not necessarily be the attorney that would handle the matter.

“I hope that he can adjust to his prison life and can have as good a life as possible,” said Ashley. “The key is for him to receive mental health treatment.”

Shiawassee County Prosecutor Randy Colbry said Drake was not insane.

“He killed those people in cold blood,” said Colbry. “He’s a dangerous person and he’s not going to be a danger in the future.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


Harlan Drake faces life in prison without parole for killing anti-abortion activist, gravel pit owner

By Laura Angus - Flint Journal

March 11, 2010

CORUNNA, Michigan — Harlan Drake smiled as he walked into court Thursday and kept smiling after hearing he was convicted of murder.

Drake, 34, of Owosso will spend the rest of his life in prison without the possibility of parole for the Sept. 11 shooting deaths of anti-abortion activist James Pouillon and gravel pit owner Michael Fuoss.

His attorneys argued Drake was insane when he killed the pair but prosecutors countered that he killed the pair because he felt that had wronged or upset his family.

“I think he was prepared to accept either result,” said Drake’s attorney, Robert Ashley. “I'm not sure that result really mattered to him.”

The jury also found Drake guilty of a weapons offense related to his plan to kill an Owosso real estate agent the same day that Pouillon and Fuoss were killed.

Jurors took less than five hours to reach the guilty verdicts after listening to six days of testimony.

Drake thanked the jurors and the judge before deputies led him back to jail.

hiawassee County Prosecutor Randy Colbry was pleased with the verdict but said nothing can make the families touched by the shootings whole.

“We can't forget that this is a tragedy for everyone involved, not just for the families of the victims, but the family of Harlan Drake,” he said.

Drake’s mother, who cried after closing arguments Wednesday, showed little emotion as the verdict was read Thursday afternoon. The family left the courthouse without speaking to reporters.

An emotional Sandy Fuoss, Michael Fuoss' ex-wife, said afterward that she was happy to hear the verdict and hopes she and their children, ages 17 and 20, will be able to get some closure.

“They've been through a lot the last six months,” she said.

She said he wanted to see Drake “go away for life.”

“He had no reason to do that,” said Sandy Fuoss. “Mike was good to them, very good.”

Pouillon's daughter Mary Jo Pouillon said she was glad the verdict came on Thursday — the six month anniversary of her father's death.

“I just really pray that him and his family will be able to find repentance and forgiveness,” she said.

The shootings immediately drew national attention because Drake killed Pouillon as he protested holding an anti-abortion sign outside Owosso High School.

Drake later denied killing Pouillon over his stance on abortion but said he didn’t like the graphic protest sign.

Judy Climer, president of Flint Right to Life and a friend of James Pouillon, said his family needed closure and this verdict will bring it.

“Justice has been served for the unborn babies and the rest of us who have a constitutional right express ourselves,” she said.

In addition to the murder conviction, Drake was also found guilty of felony firearm and carrying a firearm with unlawful intent.

Drake took the stand in his own defense this week, telling jurors that he didn’t feel any remorse for the slayings. He also testified that he hated himself and deserved to die.

Ashley said insanity was the best possible defense for Drake.

During the trial, a psychiatrist for the defense said that Drake suffered for severe psychosis caused by a 2004 crash in Iowa that left two teens dead.

Psychologists for the prosecution, however, said that Drake was not mentally ill and that the killings were not the actions of an irrational man.

“It's the jury's job to reach a verdict, and I accept that verdict,” said Ashley.

Sentencing for Drake is set for 9:30 a.m. April 23 in Shiawassee County Circuit Court.


Harlan Drake: 'I don't feel bad about the murders.'

By Dan Armstrong

March 9, 2010

Harlan Drake, the man who says he shot and killed a pro-life advocate and a local businesses man, takes to the witness stand in his own murder trial.

Drake described in detail his thought processes throughout the whole ordeal.

The prosecution wants to use his testimony to show premedidation while the defense wants to use it to show he's a reasonable man who's battling mental illness.

The day before killing pro-life advocate Jim Pouillon and Fuoss Gravel owner Mike Fuoss, 33 year old Harlan Drake says he had lunch with his family the day before.

He says his mother was upset by Jim Pouillon's pro-life signs and said he was protesting at Owosso High School that day.

Harlan Drake says, "Kind of under my breath I said 'I'll take care of that tomorrow.'"

Drake describes the thoughts going through his mind prior to shooting Pouillon. "I did not believe that he should be showing the sign to children, especially at a high school where young girls of impressionable age would see that and either be disgusted or scared."

Drake says, his nieces saw the signs and had nightmares.

The night before the shootings, Drake says he packed specific guns and bullets into a gym bag.

"At that evening, my thought was that they would be the best choice if i was going to shoot him the next day," Drake says.

While driving to Owosso High School on September 11th, Drake says "The only thought I had was that they didn't have to see that sign again. I was hoping that he wouldn't be there that morning."

Drake's attorney asked him why he was hoping Pouillon would not be there. Drake says, "So that I wouldn't have to shoot him."

After shooting Pouillon four times, Drake says his thought process was "I just shot one person. I might as well shoot anybody else that I think might deserve to be shot that day."

That's when he drove to Fuoss Gravel Company.

He says the owner wasn't kind to his mother. "Mike was a bad person and shouldn't be allowed to continue to do bad things," Drake says.

The prosecution says these thought processes show premeditation.

The defense says, Drake is battling mental illnesses and was insane at the time.

Drake says, he's had thoughts of killing himself and his family.

He says he deserves to die for murdering two people.

However, he says he does not feel bad about doing it.


Owosso anti-abortion activist's identity released as victim of homicide in front of Owosso, Michigan high school

By Liz Shaw - Flint Journal

September 11, 2009

OWOSSO, Michigan -- An anti-abortion activist gunned down Friday morning in front of Owosso High School has been identified as James Lawrence Pouillon, 63, of Owosso.

Pouillon was a longtime abortion protester, known for his highly vocal and visible public demonstrations around the community and even outside the state.

Longtime friend and fellow activist Judy Climer, president of Flint Right to Life, described Pouillon as "just a nice, elderly gentleman who was disabled, used an oxygen tank and wore leg braces."

Climer said Pouillon had a regular weekly schedule of visits to abortion clinics in Flint and Saginaw, where he would park across the street and pray when abortions were allegedly being conducted.

"I knew him very well. He told me one time God put in his heart a passion for the little babies that have the right to be born and they were being denied that right," said Climer, who said Pouillon often stopped at her office for coffee breaks as he drove from one location to another to demonstrate.

"He even told me once he'd be willing to die for that belief. That's what I hear him saying right now."

Climer said Pouillon called her last week and told her he planned to be in Flint later today, parked across the street from the Feminine Health Care Center, 2032 S. Saginaw Street.

"He always comes. He would even go up to Saginaw at 7:30 a.m. and pray, then come here to Flint at noon," said Climer. "This was a passion he's had for 20 years, to just pray that abortion would come to an end and that women would see the truth that abortion is murder."

Curious onlookers were gathered in front of Owosso High School this morning where police were still investigating the shooting.

Brie Mowen of Owosso, who described herself as a friend, said Pouillon could often be seen around town carrying his signs, using a walker and portable oxygen tank.

He was known as the sign man," said Mowen. "He was passionate about the abortion issue...He was a troubled soul but he had a good heart."

Mowen said whether she agreed with Pouillon or not, it was his right to voice his beliefs.

Elizabeth Maine of Owosso said people would sometimes get upset with Pouillon and his graphic signs and would sometimes spit and scream at him.

"One man threw a piece of fruit at him and hit him in the head," said Maine.

Lori Lamerand, president and Chief Executive Officer of Planned Parenthood East Central Michigan, also expressed shock and sadness at the news.

"We want to be very clear that we have no idea if this was related to his views, but Planned Parenthood would never condone any sort of violence against anyone, regardless of their views," said Lamerand.

A suspect was taken into custody within an hour of the shooting. Lamerand said her office has not been contacted by police at this time and no link has been made to the organization.

"Certainly we do eveyrthing we can to ensure the safety and security of our clients, and if called upon, we would obviously cooperate with any investigation with the police," said Lamerand. "I am aware he's been a protestor at our offices in the past but I have had no personal contact with this man and did not know him personally."

Pouillon was arrested in 1994 for disorderly conduct, in a case where he allegedly harassed parents as they took their children to day care at First Congregational Church in Owosso.

In a 2003 Flint Journal report of the case, Pouillon said that he targeted the church because it had hosted a 25th anniversary celebration for the local Planned Parenthood office.

At the time, Pouillon said he urged parents escorting children, "Don't take your kids to that church. They kill babies in there. They support abortion."

The 1994 police report indicated Pouillon was screaming at pre-school children and their mothers but Pouillon said he and a church member were shouting only because they stood hundreds of feet apart.

The state Supreme Court ordered the state Court of Appeals to rule on the case, which overturned Pouillon's conviction in 2003.

In another case, the U.S. Court of Appeals reversed a ruling that ordered the city of Owosso to reimburse Pouillon for legal costs from another 1994 incident in which Pouillon was cleared of charges of resisting a police officer. In that incident, Pouillon was jailed after failing to heed a police demand that he stop demonstrating on an outdoor landing near City Hall.

Flint Area Black Americans for Life president Brenda Battle-Jordan said she didn't know Pouillon personally but was heartbroken to hear of his slaying.

"It's unfortunate. This is the United States and we should all have the opportunity to express ourselves with the First Amendment," said Battle-Jordan. "I'm not for all that in-your-face graphic material, especially in front of schools and I haven't seen if that's what he was doing. But sometimes that's what gets the reaction to get the message out loud and clear.

"No matter what, an attack against anyone standing up for the First Amendment is always wrong. We have a right to say what we feel."



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