Priest Drives Car Into Abortion Clinic

ByABC News
September 30, 2000, 1:40 PM

R O C K F O R D, Ill., Sept. 30 -- A Catholic priest smashed his car into anabortion clinic this morning, then chopped at the building withan ax until the owner fired two shotgun blasts to stop him, policesaid.

The clinic was not open and nobody was injured in the attack,which came just two days after federal approval of the abortionpill RU-486.

The man drove through a door at the Abortion Access NorthernIllinois Womens Center around 8:15 a.m. He was swinging an ax whenthe clinics owner fired a 12-gauge shotgun twice. Neither man wasinjured.

The Rev. John Earl, 32, was arrested and charged with burglaryand felony criminal damage to property, said Deputy Police ChiefDominic Iasparro. Earl was released later today on $10,000 bond.

Iasparro would not comment on statements Earl made to policeabout a possible motive.

Owner Alone Inside Building

The building owner, Gerald W. Wayne Webster, 56, has rentedspace to the clinic for 15 years. He sometimes sleeps in thebuilding for security. No one else was inside this morning.

Police said Websters weapon was legal and no charges will befiled against him.

He came at me with an ax over his head, Webster toldreporters. He would have chopped my head off if I wouldnt have been armed with a 12-gauge shotgun.

I thank God and my shotgun that Im alive, he said.

Earl is the pastor at St. Patricks Catholic Church in Rochelle,about 30 miles south of Rockford. Parishioners gathering for Masson this evening said Earl took over about a year ago and wasrespected by the congregation.

Bill Cipolla said Earl sometimes spoke about abortion but hewould not have considered him a radical.

Its something I dont condone; you dont look for priests to do that type of thing, he said. I think hes a great priest.

Clinics on Alert

Abortion providers usually are on alert for violence followingabortion-related events in the news, such as this weeks approvalof RU-486 by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, said VickiSaporta, executive director of the National Abortion Federation.