Federal authorities have charged an 18-year-old man connected to a young white nationalist movement of lighting an incendiary device and throwing it at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Delaware.
Around 2:15 a.m. on Friday, Samuel Gulick walked up to the Newark Planned Parenthood facility located next to the University of Delaware, spray-painted the front wall with a known far-right phrase, and threw a lit Molotov cocktail–type device at the window, according to court documents.
Video surveillance captured the suspect driving by the building 10 minutes before the attack. A few minutes later, Gulick approaches the facility, pulls something out of a plastic bag, and scrawls “Deus Vult” in red letters on the front wall, right beneath a blue Planned Parenthood sign that reads "Health Care Happens Here." The phrase means "God Wills It" and started as a meme among Trump supporters in 2016, referencing a holy war between Muslims and Christians.
Gulick then steps off the porch and waits until a car passes before lighting an object on fire and lobbing it at the window, according to the criminal complaint. The "destructive device" explodes and begins to burn as Gulick runs away. The fire, however, self-extinguishes in about one minute.
In a statement, Planned Parenthood called the attack "an act of domestic terrorism."
"Had we not had the security that we have and the building went up in flames, a lot of people could have been injured," Ruth Lytle-Barnaby, chief executive of Planned Parenthood of Delaware, told BuzzFeed News on Tuesday. "There's student housing that surrounds that building and people think that it's just a Planned Parenthood, but it's not. It's about the whole community."
About half of the facility's patients are students, Lytle-Barnaby added.
Investigators found Gulick because he used his father's car to flee the scene, the complaint states. However, they also identified him through his Instagram profile, which was filled with far-right rhetoric and memes that reflect beliefs and attitudes in line with an evolving young white nationalist space, sometimes referred to as the America First movement, “groypers,” or the “groyper army,” so named for a distorted picture of an overweight version of Pepe the frog named Groyper.
These young white nationalists have grown into a more distinct branch of the American far-right movement over the last year. Members of the movement are largely pro-Trump, but also think the American right-wing should adopt more brazen white nationalist policies. Self-identified groypers heckled Donald Trump Jr. off the stage during his book tour in November, egged on by the movement’s favorite far-right YouTuber, Nicholas Fuentes.
Gulick had a Pepe the frog edit as his Instagram photo and his bio stated "Deus Vult" and also included references to the FBI’s 1993 siege near Waco, Texas, as well as the 11-day siege of Ruby Ridge near Naples, Idaho, in 1992, according to a screenshot included in the complaint.
BuzzFeed News found that he had liked Instagram posts about the Crusades and frequently posted anti-LGBTQ, anti-refugee, anti-abortion, and pro-Christian content, often advocating for a culture war, according to cached versions of his account and activity.
In one post from September, Gulick posted a drawing titled "The Consequences of Roe v. Wade?" with the claim that "60 million lives have been destroyed since 1973."
"The Nazis said killing millions of Jews was a national health issue. Democrats are using the same excuse to kill American children," Gulick wrote. "When will we start shooting? Its about time we kill these genocidal demons."
His activity and alleged choice to target Planned Parenthood is similar to the behavior of an 18-year-old from Ohio named Justin Olsen, who was charged in August with threatening a federal officer and allegedly posted extensively online about mass shootings, specifically targeting Planned Parenthood.
Olsen had an iFunny account called ArmyOfChrist, which raged against feminists, progressives, the LGBTQ community, and religious and ethnic minorities. It also repeatedly called for the establishment of a Christian ethnostate. Many of the memes Olsen was posting were about the Crusades, fantasizing about a religious war between Christians and Muslims. Like Gulick, Olsen also wrote on Discord extensively about the Waco siege.
Gulick’s and Olsen’s online activities fit within a growing trend among Generation Z's pro-Trump, far-right internet users. Instead of places like 4chan or Reddit, they use apps like Instagram, Discord, Telegram, and iFunny, and tend to share memes closely related to Christian or Catholic white nationalism.
In another post from September, Gulick shared a drawing that crossed out "Coexist" and replaced it with "Convert." Beneath it, he wrote, "Us white folks don't oppress minorities, we subjugate minorities..."
Instagram confirmed to BuzzFeed News that it had disabled the account associated with the suspect for "violating our policies."
Lytle-Barnaby, who is Planned Parenthood's top official in Delaware, echoed countless other reproductive health advocates who have been calling attention to the increasingly hateful and vitriolic rhetoric and actions against clinics and organizations across the US.
About two weeks ago, for example, employees at the Planned Parenthood clinic in Dover, Delaware, watched stunned as protesters who usually gather outside the clinic performed the Nazi salute as patients were going in.
"We have never seen that before," she said. "We do see some alt-right, Hitler stuff on Facebook too, and that's happening across the country. The hate-filled rhetoric is stronger and we are seeing a lot more about eugenics."
Lytle-Barnaby said her employees had never seen Gulick outside their clinic or "heard from him before," but that's not surprising.
"I do believe that white nationalist groups are targeting younger people and drawing them in," she said. "Which is different than the protesters we used to deal with — older white males."
The US Attorney for the District of Delaware charged Gulick on Monday with maliciously damaging a building used in interstate commerce through the use of fire or a destructive device, intentionally damaging a facility that provides reproductive health services, and possessing an unregistered destructive device under the National Firearms Act.
He is currently in federal custody and faces up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine if convicted of the most serious offense, maliciously damaging the Planned Parenthood facility.