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Michael Frederick GRIFFIN





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Anti-abortion activist
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: March 11, 1993
Date of arrest: Same day
Date of birth: September 11, 1961
Victim profile: Dr. David Gunn, 47 (doctor who performing abortions)
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: Pensacola, Florida, USA
Status: Sentenced to life in prison on March 4, 1994

Michael Frederick Griffin (born September 11, 1961) is a Christian terrorist who murdered Dr. David Gunn in Pensacola, Florida on March 11, 1993. This was the first killing of an OB-GYN who performed abortions.

The then 31-year-old Griffin, a member of the Army of God and Rescue America, waited outside Gunn's clinic and shot him three times in the back. He is reported to have yelled "Don't kill any more babies," just before the shooting. Griffin did not attempt to hide his involvement in the murder, telling police, "I've just shot Dr. Gunn."

A jury only deliberated three hours before finding him guilty on March 4, 1994. He was sentenced to life in prison. He is currently serving in Okaloosa Correctional Institution in Crestview, Florida.

The assassination inspired the federal Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act.


Murder of David Gunn

On March 10, 1993, Michael Frederick Griffin murdered Dr. David Gunn in Pensacola, Florida. This was the first documented killing of an OB-GYN for performing abortions.

Griffin (at the time 31 years old) waited outside Gunn's clinic and shot him three times in the back. He is reported to have yelled "Don't kill any more babies," just before the shooting. Griffin did not attempt to hide his involvement in the murder, telling police, "We need an ambulance."

A jury deliberated three hours before finding him guilty on March 4, 1994. He was sentenced to life in prison. He is currently serving in Okaloosa Correctional Institution in Crestview, Florida.The murder was one of the motivating factors in the creation of the federal Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act.

Association with John Burt

During his trial, Griffin's defense attorneys argued that activist John Burt "brainwashed" Griffin and drove him to commit murder. At the time, Burt was the Northwest Florida regional director of the national pro-life group Rescue America.

Burt was also a retired U.S. Marine and former member of the Ku Klux Klan (though he claims to have "abandoned the group's racist doctrine when he became a born-again Christian") and a self-professed "spiritual adviser" to a group of activists who bombed three abortion clinics in 1984.

In 2005, Burt was convicted of five counts of lewd or lascivious conduct for improperly touching and propositioning a 15-year-old girl at the home, and sentenced to 18 years in state prison.


Doctor Killed During Abortion Protest

By William Booth - The Washington Post

Thursday, March 11, 1993

PENSACOLA, FLA. -- A doctor was shot to death outside his abortion clinic here today when a man who prayed for the physician's soul stepped forward from a group of antiabortion protesters and opened fire, according to police and witnesses.

David Gunn, 47, was shot three times in the back after he got out of his car at the Pensacola Women's Medical Services clinic, according to Pensacola police. He died during surgery at a local hospital.

While abortion providers routinely are threatened with death, and their clinics have been bombed and vandalized, the killing here is believed to be the first in the nation's ongoing struggle over abortion.

This morning, police initially were called to simply squelch an antiabortion protest at the clinic. When they arrived, police said, Michael Frederick Griffin, 31, of Pensacola told them he had just shot Gunn.

Griffin, dressed in a gray suit, quietly surrendered to police, who said they took his .38-caliber snub-nosed revolver. Griffin was arrested and charged with murder and is being held in Escambia County jail.

Don Treshman, head of the antiabortion group Rescue America in Houston, told the Associated Press that Griffin yelled "Don't kill any more babies," just before the shooting this morning.

Treshman said several members of his group attended the protest and called him afterward to relate details of the incident.

Steve Powell, an employee at an office park where the clinic is located, told reporters that Griffin singled out the physician as his target, chased him and shot him at point-blank range.

Powell said the protesters acted strangely after the shooting. "It looked like they were just happy," he said.

On Sunday, at a service attended by protest organizers and participants, Griffin reportedly asked the congregation to pray for Gunn's soul.

"He asked that the congregation pray, and asked that we would agree with him that Dr. Gunn would give his life to Jesus Christ," said John Burt, an organizer of today's protest and a lay preacher at Whitfield Assembly of God Church.

"He wanted him to stop doing things the Bible says is wrong and start doing what the Bible says was right," Burt told reporters.

"There's talk of making protesting abortion clinics a felony. If you start talking about that, people are just going to find other ways of dealing with it," Burt said.

On Christmas Day 1984, two doctors' offices and a clinic in Pensacola were bombed by abortion foes who were convicted and imprisoned.

Burt emphasized that the protesters today had no intention of harming the doctor.

Gunn opened his clinic here about a month ago. He apparently commuted here from Eufaula, Ala., which is several hundred miles away. His new clinic, nestled among offices for lawyers, doctors and accountants, bore no signs and simply advised patients at Suite 46 to come upstairs and sign in.

Before Gunn arrived, there was only one clinic performing abortions in Pensacola, although there are at least three facilities that offer "abortion counseling" to women, in which antiabortion advocates try to persuade them to seek alternatives to terminating their pregnancies.

It is common for antiabortion activists to pray, chant, whistle and scream at abortion providers and women as they enter abortion clinics. The protesters may ask the women to consider alternatives to abortion, such as adoption, and often accompany their appeals with photos of aborted fetuses. At the Pensacola clinic today, protesters held up signs that said, "David Gunn Kills Babies."

The Supreme Court ruled in January that federal judges cannot stop protesters from trying to block access to clinics, although antiabortion protesters routinely are arrested for trespassing on private property. Congress is considering legislation that would outlaw the protests.

"We call on Congress to immediately enact the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances bill to combat antichoice terrorism and enact the Freedom of Choice Act to guarantee American women their legal right to choose," National Abortion Rights Action League President Kate Michelman said in a statement after the shooting.

Gunn had been receiving death threats for several years but they had recently become more blatant and vicious, Susan Hill, who employed the doctor at some of the National Women's Health Organization clinics she runs in the Southeast, told AP. The Pensacola facility was not one of hers.

Last summer in Montgomery, Ala., an old-fashioned "wanted" poster of Gunn was distributed at a rally for Operation Rescue leader Randall Terry, AP said. The poster included a picture of Gunn, his home phone number and other identifying information. The posters were designed to encourage abortion opponents to harass doctors working at clinics operated by Gunn in Alabama.

Margeaux Farrar, a spokeswoman for Operation Rescue, told AP the antiabortion organization knew nothing about the posters and had not printed them.

"Our commitment to the dignity of life stands for the born as well as the unborn," Keith Tucci, executive director of Operation Rescue, said in a news release expressing sorrow over Gunn's death.

The Rev. Joseph Foreman, an Operation Rescue founder, said the shooting could be the tip of the iceberg if the government silences abortion protesters.

"I've been saying for years that if the government insists on suppressing normal and time-honored dissent through injunctions, it turns the field over to the rock-throwers, the bombers and the assassins," AP quoted Foreman as saying.


Pro-Life Turns Deadly: The impact of violence on America's anti-abortion movement

By James Risen and Judy L. Thomas - Newsweek Magazine

January 26, 1998

Michael Griffin fervently believed that an accidental encounter he had with abortion doctor David Gunn was a sign from God. On the morning of March 5, 1993, Griffin, a 31-year-old factory worker in Pensacola, Florida, and a zealous follower of local anti-abortion reader John Burt, pulled into a Pensacola Exxon station, and there was Gunn.

The doctor, well known to anti-abortion activists in the area, was sitting in his car drinking coffee and reading a newspaper before heading to work at The Ladies Center, the local clinic that had so often served as ground zero for the antiabortion movement in the South. 

"I thought it was Providence," Griffin now says, revealing his meeting with Gunn for the first time in an exclusive prison interview. "I knew he was getting ready to go kill children that day. I asked the Lord what he wanted me to do. And he told me to tell him that he had one more chance.

"Griffin walked over to Gunn's car and tapped on the window. "I looked him right in the face and said, 'David Gunn, the Lord told me to tell you that you have one more chance.' He just looked at me.

"For five hours that afternoon, Griffin stood outside The Ladies Center waiting for Gunn to leave. Griffin recalls: "I felt like I had another word from the Lord for him: that he was accused and convicted of murder and that his sentence was Genesis 9:6 'Whosoever sheds man's blood, by man his blood shall be shed.'" 

"Then, right before he got in his car, I said, 'David Gunn, are you going to kill children next week?' " Griffin claims that Gunn replied by saying, "Yeah. Probably." 

Five days later, Griffin fired three .38caliber bullets into Gunn's back as the doctor got out of his car in the parking lot behind the offices of the city's other abortion clinic, Pensacola Women's Medical Services. 

By drawing blood for the first time in the nation's war over abortion, Michael Griffin changed forever the shape and direction of the organized anti-abortion movement, then reaching a new peak of clinic blockades and other protests. Ironically, it had been buttressed only two months earlier by the Supreme Court's landmark Bray decision that expanded the movements right to use nonviolent civil disobedience. 

But Griffin's murder of Gunn in March 1993 ended all hope that the movement could regain credibility or influence through nonviolent civil disobedience. Griffin ripped back the curtain to reveal the dark side of the movement's soul, and there were no balancing forces within the movement pushing for peace. 

Paul Hill, a fundamentalist preacher with a fixed and eerie smile, was so excited by Michael Griffin's actions that he was bursting with desire to talk about it.

On March 12, he walked to a pay phone, and within 20 minutes he had a producer from "Donahue" on the line. Hill was not a prominent leader in the anti-abortion movement at the time, but his pro-Griffin zeal was apparently just what the "Donahue" producers wanted for a show on anti-abortion violence.

"Donahue" eagerly jumped at the chance to put Hill on the air, and on March 15, he appeared on the show with an abortion doctor, two abortion rights activists and David Gunn's son. Hill proclaimed on national television that the murder of David Gunn was "as good as Doctor Mengele being killed." 

It's not too strong to say that "Donahue" created Paul Hill as a national symbol of anti-abortion extremism. Hill soon realized that the more outrageous his statements, the more attention he could garner both from the media and within the anti-abortion movement, and he became associated with slogans like "execute murderers, abortionists, accessories." It was not long before he was being asked by interviewers and by other activists the inevitable, gnawing question: if you believe so strongly in killing doctors, why don't you do it yourself? The answer came quickly. 

On June 10, 1994, two weeks after President Clinton signed the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) law—prompted largely by Griffin's murder of Gunn and the attempted murder of another abortion doctor, m Wichita, Kansas, by a housewife named Shelley Shannon—Paul Hill put the new legislation to a test outside The Ladies Center of Pensacola. As the clinic director, Linda Taggart, tried to perform a sonogram, Hill stood outside and screamed, "Mommy, Mommy, don't murder me."

Pensacola police told Taggart she could have Hill arrested for violating the local noise ordinance, but she wanted him charged with violating the new FACE law instead. When a FBI agent came to look into the matter, however, the agent refused to arrest Hill. A second screaming assault by Hill was also ignored by the Department of Justice. Justice apparently did not want to have its first court test of FACE in a conservative Southern state like Florida. 

After a three-day seminar m Kansas City on how to become a full-time anti-abortion activist in mid-July 1994, everything began to click into place for Hill. "I was thinking about who might take action next," Hill recalled for this book in an exclusive death-row interview in the Florida State Prison. "And then I began to think, 'Well, what would happen if I did it?' And the more I thought about it, it seemed like a reasonable thing to do." Hill continued to think about his mission for the next few days; after fasting, he says, "I decided that I was going to do it." 

Early on the morning of Friday, July 29, Hill finally put his plan into motion. He arrived at the clinic at about 6:45, concealing his shotgun in a large tube that normally contained the posters he used for his protests, and then slid it into the grass. At 7:27 a.m., Hill's wait was over. Abortion doctor John Bayard Britton arrived at the clinic, a passenger in the blue Nissan pickup of James Barrett, his volunteer escort. Barrett's wife, June, was sitting behind Britton in the jump seat. 

Hill calmly recalls the chilling details of those few seconds: "They pulled in past me, and I stepped over to where the gun was in the grass, which put the fence between me and them. Then I picked up the weapon and stepped out from behind the fence and fired three times directly at the truck. I aimed directly at the abortionist, but the driver was directly between me and him, so their heads were almost blocking one another." The shotgun blasts moved James Barrett out of the way; he fell out of the pickup, fatally wounded, "and so the abortionist was unprotected," recalls Hill. 

"I fired directly into him, five rounds, and then laid the shotgun down and walked away, slowly, with my hands down to my side," Hill says. Both Britton and Barrett were dead, and Jane Barrett was wounded. 

Hill now says that although he intended to kill Britton, he knew James Barrett could pose a problem. "And so I realized that if I was going to have any assurance of killing the abortionist, I was probably going to have to kill him, too." Hill says he had no idea June Barrett would be in the pickup that day, but he felt no remorse over shooting her: "She was part of the movement. She was there to protect him and to support and lend aid and encouragement to him. So it would certainly be justified if she had been killed. I wasn't going to turn aside from my intent to save those children from them." 

Hill's crime provided the coup de grace to anti-abortion activism—though the issue itself remained politically potent. Operation Rescue was perceived as little more than a violence-prone cult. America's tolerance for clinic blockades and other antiabortion civil disobedience abruptly ended. 

Attorney General Janet Reno was also finally prodded into creating a Justice Department task force to investigate whether there was a nationwide conspiracy behind the violence. But despite many connections among extremists—encouraging one another with prayers, letters and telephone calls, reprinting various tracts, even offering a place to stay when needed—and despite the techniques of terrorism described in "Army of God," a manual that circulated among them, authorities were unable to prove that there was a national conspiracy behind the violence. "Unless there's specific knowledge that someone's going to commit a crime, you don't have a criminal conspiracy," observes Cheryl Glenn, an ATF special agent in Portland, Ore., and lead investigator in the Shannon case. 

Still, John O'Keefe, a long-forgotten father of anti-abortion "rescue" protests could only look with horror on the blooddrenched state of the pro-life movement he had helped found. "The direction of the movement?" O'Keefe wonders aloud. "I think it is a disaster."


Michael Frederick Griffin



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