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Planned Parenthood shooting suspect insists he’s competent: ‘I understand totally’

COLORADO SPRINGS, CO - DECEMBER 09: Robert Lewis Dear addresses Judge Gilbert Martinez during a court appearance December 09, 2015 in Colorado Springs, Colorado. El Paso County prosecutors filed formal charges against Lewis in the November 27 Planned Parenthood attack in which University of Colorado Colorado Springs police officer Garrett Swasey, Iraq war veteran Ke'Arre Stewart and Jennifer Markovsky, mother of two were killed. (Photo by Andy Cross-Pool/Getty Images)

DENVER — A man accused of killing three people at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado in 2015 appeared in court in Denver on Friday on new charges.

Federal prosecutors have asked the judge to order a new mental evaluation for Robert Dear, who was previously ruled to be incompetent to stand trial in state court.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Kristen Mix on Friday gave Dear’s attorneys until Dec. 20 to respond to the request. Dear has said he is guilty and insisted Friday that he understood both his rights and the charges against him.

“Yes, I understand totally,” Dear told the judge. He was handcuffed in the front, shackled at the waist, and wore a tan jail suit.

Dear’s competency is a top issue as federal prosecutors seek to swiftly advance the case against him. He faces dozens of state charges but has repeatedly been deemed incompetent by state authorities.

Dear consistently has insisted he is competent.

In their motion, federal prosecutors cited “notable problems” with the state’s tests for a mental evaluation, but they did not elaborate. A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office declined to comment.

Prosecutors noted that the state court’s incompetence ruling isn’t binding in the federal case and said Dear didn’t appear to be incompetent during a Monday hearing before U.S. Magistrate Judge Nina Wang. But, they added, the state court’s ruling warrants a fresh evaluation in the new case.

“Mr. Dear told Judge Wang that he is competent, and the government does not believe that Mr. Dear’s behavior in federal court suggests otherwise,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Rajiv Mohan wrote in the motion. “But the government is aware that the Court must take into consideration the fact that Mr. Dear was previously found incompetent in the State court proceedings against him.”

On Friday, Dear interrupted the court proceedings to complain about the evaluations at the state mental hospital in Pueblo, insisting they are unnecessary. “They throw me in the nuthouse. They silence me,” he said at one point.

Prosecutors say Dear held police at bay for more than five hours during the November 2015 attack in Colorado Springs that sent hundreds of holiday shoppers scrambling for safety.

A police officer from the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, and two people who were accompanying friends to the clinic separately were killed in the rampage. Nine others were injured.

Dear, 61, has previously declared in courtroom outbursts that he is guilty and called himself a “warrior for babies.” He faces 179 charges in state court, including murder and attempted murder, but that case has languished since he was deemed incompetent to stand trial in 2016. His mental health status has been reviewed every 90 days without change.

U.S. Attorney Jason Dunn announced a federal grand jury indictment on Monday related to the shooting. Dunn cited the delay on the state level as a factor in pursuing the federal case and said he had consulted with local prosecutors.

Dear is facing 68 counts in the federal case, including use of a firearm during a crime resulting in death and violating a law ensuring access to clinic entrances.

The Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, which makes it a crime to injure or intimidate clinic patients or employees, includes a five-year statute of limitations.

Federal prosecutors have hired Dr. Park Dietz to evaluate Dear. The psychiatrist has participated in numerous high-profile cases, including serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer’s and Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s.

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