US abortion activist killed in front of school

US abortion activist killed in front of school

US abortion activist killed in front of school

All week “the sign guy” had stood outside the local public high school, protesting abortion.

On Friday morning, James Pouillon — known in Owosso for his years of in-your-face protests against abortion —was in his usual place across the street, holding a sign that pictured a chubby-cheeked baby with the word ‘LIFE’ on one side and an image of an aborted fetus with the word ‘ABORTION’ on the other.

This time, a truck pulled up and a man inside opened fire, killing the protester before driving to a gravel pit business and shooting and killing the owner.

Police say the gunman had grudges against several people and did not like Pouillon holding a sign with graphic images of a fetus in front of students. The authorities believe they stopped a third slaying by catching up with the gunman before he could kill again. “The defendant had ill will toward these three individuals — not for the same reason necessarily, but had a grudge,” said Shiawassee County Prosecutor Randy Colbry.

Authorities charged Harlan James Drake, 33, with first-degree murder. He was arraigned by video without an attorney and ordered held without bond. The authorities said he was a truck driver who mostly lived on the road in his cab and had family in the area, but they were mystified by what may have led him to kill.

“Out of a two-month period, he might be here for two days. We have no history of local contact with him,” said sheriff’s Detective Lt David Kirk. “It becomes a mystery to us why today all of this transpired.”

The shootings started around 7:20 am across the street at Owosso High School, as parents dropped off students before class. Pouillon was a polarising figure in Owosso, a town of 15,000 best known as the birthplace of 1948 Republican presidential candidate Thomas Dewey. While inhaling oxygen from a small tank, he could usually be seen with his anti-abortion signs outside schools, the library, city hall, even football games.
The shots came as students and some horrified parents and students watched.

Second victim

After shooting Pouillon, Drake  drove seven miles and down a dead-end country road to Fuoss Gravel Co and killed Mike Fuoss, 61, who owned the gravel business, said Shiawassee County Sheriff George Braidwood. The two men knew each other, but authorities did not detail what may have led to his slaying.

Lisa Merkel, Fuoss’sister-in-law, said other family members told her that the suspect's mother worked at the gravel company more than a decade ago.

Someone wrote down Drake’s licence plate number after Pouillon’s shooting and called police, who arrested him before he could fulfil a plan to kill a third man in town, Colbry said. Drake told authorities he was involved in Fuoss’ slaying when they questioned him, authorities said.

Get a round-up of the day's top stories in your inbox

Check out all newsletters

Get a round-up of the day's top stories in your inbox