On Sept. 11, a lone gunman shot James Pouillon twice, killing the long-time pro-life activist in front of Owosso High School in Owosso, Mich., near Flint.
Pouillon, 63, was holding a sign with a newborn child and the word “Life” embossed on it. The same morning, Mike Fuoss, 61, owner of a local gravel pit was found murdered. Police arrested Harland James Drake, 33, and charged him with two counts of first-degree murder.
According to the Flint Journal, prosecutors said Drake told them he targeted Pouillon because of his pro-life activity. Sara Edwards, Shiawassee County chief assistant prosecutor, said, “There was some displeasure with how open he was … He tended to carry big signs with very graphic pictures of fetuses.”
There is no known connection between the victims.
Pouillon became involved with Operation Rescue in Atlanta in 1988 and remained involved in pro-life activism since, usually by holding signs at street corners in his community and once a week travelling to nearby cities to picket at abortion facilities. He became known as “Jim the sign guy” or “the abortion sign guy” by admirers and detractors alike.
In Owosso, he often sat in a lawn chair when holding his signs of newborn babies or aborted children, because he used a portable oxygen tank. On the morning he was shot, he was standing near the high school, ready to discuss abortion with students.
Cal Zastrow, a friend of Pouillon’s, described him as “one of the most loving, compassionate people, peaceful people I’ve ever met in my life.” Zastrow told LifeSiteNews.com that Pouillon regularly faced verbal harassment and physical intimidation including spitting and assault. “He was 100 per cent non-violent. He never threatened anyone. He never condoned violence ever,” said Zastrow.
Mary Jo Pouillon, 26, told the local bi-weekly paper, the Argus-Press, that her father would have “loved all the attention” that the tragedy drew, not to himself, but to the pro-life cause. “He always told me that when he went to heaven that he wanted to go while on the corner saving babies,” she said. She said “a lot of people in Owosso hated my dad” for his pro-life witness, but “my father was ready to go for the Lord.”
“We are stunned by Jim’s murder,” said Operation Rescue president Troy Newman in a statement. “His life was characterized by his love and concern of the vulnerable and he will be greatly missed.
Monica Migliorino Miller, director of Citizens for a Pro-Life Society, called Pouillon “a hero” who gave his life to pro-life activism. “Jim died while giving a peaceful witness to the sacredness of human life,” she said. “Now his life has been taken as he stood in witness against the injustice of abortion.”
Bradley Mattes, executive director of the Life Issues Institute, said, “It’s hard to imagine the hatred that motivates someone to murder, regardless of which side of the debate they’re on. It’s all desperately wrong.
“The murder of millions of innocent unborn babies is spilling out onto the streets of America. I pray we can stop the killing on all fronts. Our prayers are with Jim’s family.”
Miller noted that, “When violence is aimed at those who provide abortion – pro-life leaders are swift to condemn it. We call on the pro-abortion community to condemn this violence against Jim Pouillon.” She was echoed by Fr. Frank Pavone of Priests for Life, who told LifeSiteNews.com that he hoped to see “a strong expression of indignation from the pro-abortion community, just like there was a strong expression of indignation from the pro-life community at the killing of (abortionist) Dr. (George) Tiller.”
But there was little. In contrast to hundreds of pro-life groups in Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States that immediately condemned the murder of Tiller in May, by the end of the day on Sept. 11, just two pro-abortion outfits unambiguously condemned the killing: East Central Michigan Planned Parenthood and the pro-abortion website RHrealitycheck.org. Other groups called the murder a tragedy, but implied that Pouillon deserved his fate.
According to a Human Life International report three years ago, between 1965 and 2005, there were 520 homicides committed by members of the pro-abortion industry and its defenders. Most victims were women who changed their minds and wanted their babies, as well as babies killed after botched abortions. This is the first known case of a pro-life activist being killed on the street.