The official could not elaborate about the comment by the 57-year-old suspect, Robert Lewis Dear. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to speak publicly about the ongoing investigation.
Planned Parenthood said late Saturday that witnesses said the gunman was motivated by his opposition to abortion.
Police, however, have not disclosed a motive for Friday’s attack during which they say Dear stormed the Colorado Springs clinic, killing three people, including a police officer, before he surrendered to authorities.
The attack thrust the clinic to the center of the ongoing debate over Planned Parenthood, which was re-ignited in July when anti-abortion activists released undercover video they said showed the organization’s personnel negotiating the sale of fetal organs.
Planned Parenthood has denied seeking any payments beyond legally permitted reimbursement costs for donating the organs to researchers. Still, the National Abortion Federation says it has since seen a rise in threats at clinics nationwide.
The anti-abortion activists, part of a group called the Center for Medical Progress, denounced the “barbaric killing spree in Colorado Springs by a violent madman” and offered prayers for the dead and wounded and for their families.
The facility provides women’s health services and has long been the site of regular anti-abortion protests. A Roman Catholic priest who has held weekly Mass in front of the clinic for 20 years said Dear wasn’t part of his group.
“I don’t know him from Adam,” said Rev. Bill Carmody. “I don’t recognize him at all.”
Dear, who was in custody and is expected to make his first court appearance Monday, was described by neighbors as reclusive. They said he stashed food in the woods, avoided eye contact and warned neighbors about government spying.
At a vigil Saturday at All Souls Unitarian Church, Rev. Nori Rost called the gunman a “domestic terrorist.” In the back of the room, someone held a sign that said: “Women’s bodies are not battlefields. Neither is our town.”
Vicki Cowart, the regional head of Planned Parenthood, drew a standing ovation when she walked to the pulpit. She promised to quickly reopen the clinic. “We will adapt. We will square our shoulders and we will go on,” she said.
After her remarks, a woman in the audience stood up, objected to the vigil becoming a “political statement” and left.
Cowart said the gunman “broke in” to the clinic Friday but didn’t get past a locked door leading to the main part of the facility. She said there was no armed security when the shooting began. He later surrendered to police after an hours-long standoff.
In the parking lot of the two-story building, one man said the gunman shot at him as he pulled his car out, blasting two holes in his windshield. Inside, one worker ducked under a table and called her brother to tell him to take care of her kids if she was killed.
At one point, an officer whispered reports into his radio as he crept through the building. Others relayed information from surveillance cameras and victims in hiding. “We’ve got a report of a victim texting from just east of the lobby,” someone said.
In the end, a six-year veteran University of Colorado police officer was killed. Two civilians also died, though their identities weren’t immediately released. Five other officers and four people were hospitalized.
Cowart said all 15 clinic employees survived and worked hard to make sure everyone else got into safe spaces and stayed quiet.
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper said the city is mourning and praised the bravery of first responders. He said the nation is wrestling with the causes of violence but that it’s too early to discuss that while the city is reeling.
“This is the kind of thing that hits the entire community in the gut,” he said.