Murder of Jim Pouillon

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The murder of Jim Pouillon occurred on September 11, 2009. Activist James Pouillon and businessman Michael Fuoss were each shot by the same killer, at separate locations. Pouillon was killed while protesting abortion in front of Owosso High School in Owosso, Michigan, evidently the first time someone had been murdered while doing so. Police arrested Harlan James Drake and charged him with both crimes. Drake was later convicted of two counts of first-degree murder, and was subsequently sentenced to two life sentences.


Jim Pouillon was a well-known Michigan activist and member of Operation Save America.[1] An elderly man dependent on an oxygen tank to breathe, he had been protesting abortion since 1988.[2] On the day he was shot, Pouillon was leading a protest across the street from Owosso High School in Owosso, Michigan.[1]

Shooting and arrest[edit]

During the protest, Pouillon was shot at 7:20 a.m. EDT by a gunman in a passing vehicle. One witness recorded the vehicle's license plate number. Meanwhile, police were alerted to another murder, of businessman Michael Fuoss at a gravel business he owned. An hour after Pouillon's shooting, police located and arrested the owner of the vehicle, Harlan James Drake. Drake indicated he had shot both victims.[1]

Pouillon's murder was evidently the first time an activist had ever been killed while protesting abortion.[3] Authorities said Fuoss was not connected to the pro-life movement.[3] Police said Drake was offended by pro-life material that Pouillon had displayed across from the school for the previous week.[1] A Center for Reproductive Rights spokesperson said the shooting did not seem to be tied to the abortion debate and that Drake was not a pro-choice activist.[3] Drake himself said that he killed Pouillon because he (Drake) and his (Drake's) mother were offended by the fact that Pouillon was displaying a bloody, gory sign near a school where children could see it.[4]


While in custody awaiting trial, Drake attempted suicide by breaking a TV and using the broken glass to cut his wrists.[5] Before the trial, Drake said he shot Pouillon because his (Drake's) mother and nieces were upset by Pouillon's graphic sign, which Drake felt should not be displayed near children.[6] In 2004, Drake was involved — but not legally responsible — in a motor-vehicle accident that killed two teenagers. Drake's attorney, Robert Ashley, argued that Drake suffered from depression stemming from the crash and was therefore mentally incompetent at the time of the murders.[7] On September 30, 2009 Drake was deemed incompetent to stand trial and was remanded into the custody of the Michigan Department of Mental Health.[8] Drake was later declared fit to stand trial. Drake testified about how he committed the murder, and even cracked jokes during his testimony. His testimony proved to be very damaging to his case.[9] On March 11, 2010, the jury returned a verdict of guilty on both counts of first-degree murder.[10]

On April 22, 2010, Drake received life imprisonment and expressed no remorse for any pain caused to the families.[11] Drake himself said he should go to jail "forever".[12]


Several pro-life groups and leaders have deemed Pouillon a martyr.[13][14] Lori Lamerand, president of Planned Parenthood East Central Michigan, stated the killing was tragic and expressed concerns that people would retaliate.[15] President Barack Obama has called the killing "deplorable" and stated that, "whichever side of a public debate you're on, violence is never the right answer."[16] Pouillon's funeral was held at the Owosso High School football stadium.[17]

Poullion's family gave conflicting descriptions of him. His daughter Mary Jo Pouillon said of him, "He didn't want to hurt anyone that hadn't hurt him or his family," adding, "They're talking about the babies today. That's what he'd say." She sang in a memorial service that drew pro-life activists from across the country.[2][18] His estranged son Dr. James M. Pouillon wrote, "It will be impossible for some to believe, but my dad really didn't care about aborton [sic]. He did this to stalk, harass, terrorize, scream at, threaten, frighten, and verbally abuse women ... He was at the high shool [sic] because my niece was there, and female family members were always his favorite targets."[19]

The right-to-life organization Operation Rescue named Pouillon "Person of the Year" for 2009, saying that Pouillon's murder was pro-abortion rights violence.[20]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d "Police: Shooting suspect offended by anti-abortion material". CNN. 2009-09-11. 
  2. ^ a b Damien Cave (September 16, 2009). "Memorial Held for Slain Anti-Abortion protester". New York Times. Retrieved August 16, 2012. 
  3. ^ a b c Fitzsimmons, Emma (2009-09-11). "Anti-Abortion Protester Slain in Michigan; Suspect in Custody". New York Times. 
  4. ^
  5. ^ "Suspect in Mich. Murders Attempts Suicide". CBS News. September 14, 2009. 
  6. ^
  7. ^ The Associated Press. "Defense: Harlan Drake was depressed after 2004 crash that killed two teens". Retrieved 2012-06-21. 
  8. ^ Chapman, Mary M. (October 1, 2009). "Incompetence Ruling in Killing of Abortion Protester". The New York Times. Retrieved May 13, 2010. 
  9. ^ Laura Angus. "Harlan Drake biggest witness against himself in murder trial". Flint Journal. Retrieved 2012-06-21. 
  10. ^ Laura Angus. "Harlan Drake found guilty of first-degree murder in Shiawassee County slayings of pro-life activist, business owner". Flint Journal. Retrieved 2012-06-21. 
  11. ^ Detroit Free-Press Archived May 2, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.
  12. ^ Laura Angus. "Harlan Drake says he deserved to go to jail 'forever' before sentencing in murder trial". Flint Journal. Retrieved 2012-06-21. 
  13. ^ WLNS[dead link]
  14. ^ "Reuters". Reuters. 2009-09-11. Retrieved 2012-06-21. 
  15. ^ Paul Sancya. "MLive". MLive. AP. Retrieved 2012-06-21. 
  16. ^ AP Archived September 24, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
  17. ^ "In Focus: Jim Pouillon". WVCY-TV. 2009-09-25. 
  18. ^ Laura Angus (March 10, 2010). "Daughter of James Pouillon said she was struck by Harlan Drake's lack of remorse". Retrieved August 16, 2012. 
  19. ^
  20. ^