Robert Lewis Dear
Robert Lewis Dear has been identified as the gunman that killed three people in a shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado earlier this week Colorado Springs Police

A gunman who allegedly opened fire in a family planning clinic in Colorado, killing three people, and took hostages during a five-hour siege has been named as Robert Lewis Dear. Police in Colorado Spring released mugshots of Dear, 57, who was taken into custody after an hours-long standoff with security forces on 27 November.

Three people, including a policeman, were killed, and nine injured as he stormed the Planned Parenthood clinic and engaged in a gun battle with authorities, leaving patients and staff trapped inside the premises.

US President Barack Obama has once again appealed for tougher gun control regulations, describing the assault on the women's health clinic as "not normal".

"The last thing Americans should have to do, over the holidays or any day, is comfort the families of people killed by gun violence — people who woke up in the morning and bid their loved ones goodbye with no idea it would be for the last time," Obama said in a statement. "And yet, two days after Thanksgiving, that's what we are forced to do again."

"This is not normal. We can't let it become normal. If we truly care about this — if we're going to offer up our thoughts and prayers again, for God knows how many times, with a truly clean conscience — then we have to do something about the easy accessibility of weapons of war on our streets to people who have no business wielding them. Period. Enough is enough," he added.

Black Friday attack

The dead officer was identified as Garrett Swasey, a 44-year-old married father of two.

Motives for the attack were not immediately clear. Planned Parenthood, an NGO, is the largest provider of abortions in the US. It recently became embroiled in controversy after pro-life activists accused the healthcare provider of illegally selling foetal tissues for profit, a claim which is disputed by the organisation.

"The information regarding the gunman's motive remains unknown as does whether Planned Parenthood was targeted deliberately," said Vicki Cowart, the chief executive of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains (PPRM). "We share the concerns of many Americans that the continued attacks against abortion providers and patients, as well as law enforcement officers, is creating a poisonous environment that breeds acts of violence. But, we will never back away from providing critical health care to millions of people who rely on and trust us every day."

Detectives were investigating whether Dear, who had a previous criminal record, had a history of mental issues or held radical views. "We don't have any information on this individual's mentality, or his ideas or ideology," said Colorado Springs police Lieutenant Catherine Buckley.

"He came out, and we looked each other in the eye, and he started aiming, and then he started shooting," eyewitness Ozy Licano told AP."I saw two holes go right through my windshield as I was trying to quickly back up and he just kept shooting and I started bleeding."

Dear surrendered to authorities five hours after the shooting began.