Clinic business

David Gunn: Pensacola abortion doctor murdered outside clinic

PENSACOLA, Fla. (WKRG) — David Gunn, a physician who provided abortion care in Pensacola, walked into the clinic where he worked on the morning of March 10, 1993, when he was shot three times in the back. Gunn died that day at a Pensacola hospital. While he was the first abortion provider targeted for offering abortions, his murder – public and widely reported – was the first as the country began to fight against legal abortion.

WKRG News 5 looks back at the crimes that shocked the Gulf Coast. David Gunn’s story is the second in the series.

David Gunn was born in Benton, Ky. on November 16, 1945. According to a letter written by his son, Gunn was a smart kid, and once in high school his parents pushed him to go to medical school. Gunn would go on to attend and graduate from Vanderbilt University, where he met his future wife, Reta. They moved to Lexington, Kentucky so Gunn could attend medical school and he graduated from school in 1973. Gunn received honors during his residency and became a physician with specialties in obstetrics and gynecology .

In 1997, Gunn and another young doctor opened their first practice in Brewton, Ala. According to Gunn’s son, the reason Gunn and the other doctor wanted to open a practice in lower Alabama was to “serve a community suffering from one of the highest infant mortality rates in the country.

Four years after abortion was legalized, Gunn began performing abortions in addition to what he was already doing: giving birth and helping with prenatal care. After moving from Brewton, Ala. in Eufala, Ala., Gunn would begin visiting area clinics. It started each week in Eufala, then went to Columbus, Georgia, went to Montgomery, Alabama, then to Mobile, Alabama, and ended the week in Pensacola, Florida.

Anti-abortion activists took notice of her work. At an anti-abortion rally in Montgomery, a wanted poster with Gunn’s face on it was passed around. A Washington Post reporter interviewed Gunn’s employer who said Gunn had been receiving death threats for some time. On March 10, 1993, these threats became reality.

That Wednesday, Gunn went to work at the Pensacola Women’s Medical Services clinic in Pensacola, Florida. When Gunn arrived, an anti-abortion rally was taking place outside the clinic. Gunn parked his car and opened his door to exit and enter the clinic. Washington Post reporters said a man shouted “don’t kill any more babies” and three shots rang out.

Gunn had been shot three times in the back just outside the clinic. A medical team rushed him into surgery, but it was too late. Gunn died in the operating room. Steve Powell, an employee of a company close to the clinic, said Griffin targeted Gunn. Powell also said the protesters “looked like they were just happy.”

“Dad was never one to shy away from engaging his patients, and I remember many nights doing homework while he fielded patient calls from the dining room table,” his son recalls. David Gunn Jr. “Patients loved my dad not only because he gave them excellent, quality care, they appreciated his authenticity.”

When officers first responded to the scene, they found a man named Michael Frederick Griffin, 31, who admitted he had been the one who shot Gunn. According to the Washington Post, Griffin surrendered to police without issue. Griffin was charged with murder and incarcerated in the Escambia County Jail. During his trial, Griffin reportedly asked the congregation to pray for Gunn’s soul.

Years before Gunn was killed, two doctors’ offices and another abortion clinic in Pensacola were bombed on Christmas Day. It is widely believed that Gunn’s death was “the first in the nation’s ongoing fight against abortion,” according to The Washington Post. In 2015, 11 people were killed in attacks on abortion clinics across the country.