Woman Who Shot Wichita Doctor Seeks Presidential Pardon

By: Cayle Thompson Email
By: Cayle Thompson Email

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Rachelle Shannon was 38 years old in 1993. That's the year authorities say she drove from her home in Grants Pass, Oregon, all the way to Wichita with only one purpose: to kill Dr. George Tiller.

Shannon shot Tiller several times just outside the gates to his East Wichita clinic. Tiller survived and was able to return to work the next day. Shannon, who said she only meant to injure the doctor, was arrested in Oklahoma City, charged and ultimately convicted of attempted first degree murder.

She soon after plead guilty to additional attacks on multiple clinics in Oregon, California, Nevada and Idaho. A federal judge called her a "terrorist" before sentencing her to 20 years in prison. The sentence did not begin until Shannon completed an 11 year term for Tiller's attempted murder.

Today, Shannon has 15 years left. But a fellow activist is hoping to free her before the end of the year.

"One man's terrorist is another man's freedom-fighter," says Reverend Michael Bray of Wilmington, Ohio. "I definitely think there's some truth in that."

Bray is a reknown pro-life activist and author of "A Time to Kill," a book detailing the ethical need for force in order to protect unborn children. Bray is himself a convicted felon, having helped to sabotage clinics in the 1980s.

Investigators say Bray inspired Shannon's actions. The two have long communicated with each other.

"I was personally motivated [to help her] when I thought of President Bush leaving office," says Bray, "and the low prospects of any mercy being given by the incoming President."

Bray says he hopes Shannon would refrain from repeating her past actions, as he has since his conviction and release from prison in 1989.

President Bush denied a previous request for pardon in August of this year, after which Bray renewed his efforts and sent a letter to the White House.

In the letter, he says: "I am requesting that you do RIGHT and free her. You are a man of integrity; you are a man whom history will judge much kinder than has our fickle, wind-driven citizenry. Those who hate you... hate God as well. And they hate those who have stood for justice for the womb children."

Efforts to free Shannon have shocked her victims.

"Pardoning a violent domestic terrorist such as this is irresponsible, insulting, and unjust," says Dan Monnat, attorney for Dr. Tiller.

Most pro-life advocates say Shannon and Bray do not reflect what the anti-abortion movement is really about.

"Violence is completely against what we're trying to do," says David Gittrich of Kansans For Life. "Anybody who uses violence really isn't part of the pro-life movement at all."

Federal prosecutors in Oregon say Shannon has never shown remorse for her actions, just one reason why a pardon is highly unlikely.

In a note posted online to her supporters, Shannon asks others to write President Bush in support of her pardon. However, she also says, "Please don't insult me by saying I've repented or any such thing."

Bray and Shannon say their past actions were attempts to protect innocent children.

A spokesperson for the US Office of the Pardon Attorney in Washington, DC, says it may be difficult for Shannon to request another pardon before President Bush leaves office.

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