OWOSSO, Mich. – Pro-life leaders condemned the Sept. 11 murder of a Michigan man who was protesting against abortion outside a public high school in Owosso. The suspect, arrested by police, said he targeted the man for his activism.
The dead man, James Pouillon, 63, a General Motors retiree, was shot about 7 a.m. while protesting outside Owosso High School in the city as students were gathering for classes. Owosso, a town of about 15,000, is located 10 miles west of Flint.
A 33-year-old Owosso Township long-haul truck driver, Harlan James “Hal” Drake, was arrested later that morning. Police said Drake, once in custody, confessed to having killed a second man. The body of James Fuoss, 61, was found on the property of the gravel business he owned an hour after the Pouillon murder.
Prosecutors in Shiawassee County said Drake had singled out Pouillon because of the visible style of his regular protests outside the school. It was not immediately disclosed why Drake killed Fuoss. Police said Drake intended to kill a third man, an Owosso real estate agent, but was arrested at his home before he could carry it out.
“Mr. Pouillon was known as the ‘sign guy’ because he had the courage to show people what abortion really is,” said Priests for Life executive director Janet Morana in a Sept. 11 statement.
Sara Edwards, the chief assistant prosecutor for Shiawassee County, told The New York Times, “He tended to carry big signs with very graphic pictures of fetuses.”
“This brutal murder will not deter pro-lifers from continuing to expose the horror of what abortion does, not just to the baby who loses his life, but also to the mother who lives with the truth of abortion the rest of her life,” Morana said.
Father Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, said in a Sept. 11 statement, “James Pouillon today joined the approximately 4,000 other victims who will be killed today because of abortion. The taking of all innocent lives must stop.”
“While the motive behind the shooting is unknown, we know that Mr. Pouillon was known for his stand against abortion,” said a Sept. 11 statement by David N. O’Steen, executive director of the National Right to Life Committee. Prior to the murder charges, Drake had no criminal history.
“The pro-life movement works to protect the right to life and increase respect for human life,” O’Steen added. “Any unlawful use of violence is directly contrary to that goal.”
Pouillon’s pastor, Father John Fain of St. Paul Parish in Owosso, said in a separate statement, “While many in the Christian community in Owosso strongly disagreed with his approach, they admired his passion, zeal and determination to protect and preserve human life, at every stage, from conception to natural death.”
President Barack Obama, in a two-sentence statement Sept. 13, called Pouillon’s murder “deplorable,” adding, “Whichever side of a public debate you’re on, violence is never the right answer.”
About 200 people, including Pouillon’s widow and adult daughter, gathered outside Owosso High School Sept. 13 to mourn his death and celebrate his life.