A man in Illinois has been arrested and charged with setting fire and attempting to damage a Planned Parenthood Health Center in Peoria.
The criminal complaint states that on Jan. 15, Tyler W. Massengill, 32, drove up to the Planned Parenthood clinic in a white truck with red doors and walked up to the building with a bottle. Massengill then allegedly lit a rag on one end of the bottle, smashed a window with an object, and then placed the container inside the health center before fleeing the scene.
Later that night, authorities received a report of a fire in progress at the Planned Parenthood. The Peoria Police Department confirmed that there was no one inside the building at the time of the fire.
Prosecutors say they connected Massengill to the crime after reviewing surveillance footage and receiving several tips that linked the truck in question to Massengill. Authorities ended up recovering the truck on Jan. 23 from someone they say Massengill had left it with and asked to paint the doors white.
The next day, Massengill called the Peoria Police Department and said he wanted to speak with them about the Jan. 15 incident. He met with investigators and initially denied responsibility for the attack, claiming that he traveled to Perioa on Jan. 15 and allowed two men to borrow his truck.
Massengill then changed his story and told the investigators about a relationship he had years ago in which his girlfriend at the time became pregnant and told him on the phone that she had decided to get an abortion, which upset him.
"On or around January 15, 2023, Massengill heard or saw something that reminded him of the abortion, again upsetting him," the criminal complaint states. "Massengill admitted that, on January 15, 2023, he broke the window out of the PHC and placed a burning container inside of the building."
He then allegedly told prosecutors that if his actions on Jan. 15 caused "a little delay" in a person receiving care at the Planned Parenthood Health Clinic, then his conduct may have been "all worth it."
In a statement released after the charges were announced on Wednesday, Jennifer Welch, president of Planned Parenthood of Illinois, said that they were pleased an arrest had been made.
"The damage to the health center is extensive, and we are estimating it cost over $1M to rebuild. The repairs will take numerous months before we can reopen stronger than ever," Welch said. "This senseless act of vandalism has robbed the community of access to birth control, cancer screenings, STI testing and treatment, and gender-affirming care as well as medication abortion services."
Mary Kate Zander, executive director of anti-abortion organization Illinois Right to Life, condemned the incident, saying that "we would never condone violence against any Planned Parenthood or any other abortion clinic.”
“The primary reason that we stand against abortion is that it’s an act of violence. So it would be hypocritical of us to not say the same in the case of an act of violence against abortion workers," she added.
If convicted, Massengill faces between five and 40 years behind bars, according to the Department of Justice. The charges also carry up to three years of supervised release and a possible fine.
The attack comes after the FBI announced last week that it is offering a reward of up to $25,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of suspects responsible for crimes against reproductive health facilities across the US.