Michigan mourns murdered pro-lifer

religion | Sep 17, 2009 | By Martin Barillas

Hundreds of mourners assembled at the high school football stadium of the small Michigan town of Owosso where on September 11, pro-life activist James L. Pouillon was shot to death by a pistol wielding truck driver. Pouillon, a 63 year-old Vietnam vet who had long been known as the “sign man” for holding large placards depicting graphic images of abortion, was standing in protest in front of the high school and was shot multiple times as children began their morning classes.

On September 16, mourners from throughout the state came to Owosso where they heard Pouillon’s 26 year-old daughter Mary Jo Pouillon sing “Trading My Sorrows” while holding an American flag folded as traditionally for a fallen soldier. Mary Jo Pouillon said of her father “I want him to be remembered as a man who loved Jesus. It’s not about my dad. It’s about the cause and it’s about Christ.” Rev. David Knox, who serves as pastor of Abba’s House Christian Fellowship where James Pouillon worshipped, recognized Pouillon’s strong vaic saying “Jim shouted to the world what he was living for.” Also noted at the memorial was Pouillon’s military service.

Harlan Drake, 33, is being held by authorities and is charged with two counts of murder. Police believe that he shot and killed not only Pouillon, but also Michael Fuoss, 61, a local business owner. Allegedly, Drake also planned to killed yet another man in the community that day. Drake is now under suicide watch at the jail, having attempted to kill himself on by gashing his arm on September 12. He is now being represent3d by an attorney. Police found 10,000 rounds of ammunition at his home and several firearms. Apparently none of these were assault-type weapons. Drake allegedly carried out his deeds with a .45 calibre pistol. While Drake’s family has called him a “gentle giant”, they have also said that they are overwhelmed with sadness as they struggle to understand the events of September 11. Christians in Owosso have called for prayers on behalf of Drake and his family as he recovers.

Some commentators have already referred to Pouillon as a martyr for the pro-life cause. Judy Climer of a right-to-life group in nearby Flint said that Pouillon was the first to “die in the line of duty,” having had passion for the truth. Lori Lamerand, who serves as president of Planned Parenthood east Central Michigan, however worries over Pouillon’s designation as a martyr saying “A major tragedy would be if it sparked retaliation.” Protests in memory of Pouillon are expected at high schools throughout the country this week while he was the focus of a 27-hour vigil in Washington DC on September 14.

The violent events of September 11 in Owosso revealed divisions within Pouillon’s family. Pouillon’s estranged son, Dr. James M. Pouillon, differs from his father’s admirers and was quoted as saying that he does not “think he really cared about the unborn,” “I don’t think that he was really pro-life.” The two had not spoken in eight years. Dr. Pouillon added in a blog posting that his father’s goal was to cause anger and terror in his community so as “to make them feel the only way they could make him stop was to kill him.” The son claims that his father abused mother Mary Lou Kadera, from whom the elder Pouillon was divorced in 1987. In 1992 the elder Pouillon acknowledge his marital problems and admitted to pushing his wife into a piano. He later became a fervent Christian.

Nationally-known pro-life leaders, such as Rev. Frank Pavone, have decried the murders, while even President Obama condemned the shooting as "deplorable." Said the notably pro-choice president in a statement, "Whichever side of a public debate you're on, violence is never the right answer." 

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Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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