By CLAIRE SAVAGE – Associated Press/Report for America
CHICAGO (AP) — A central Illinois man was charged Wednesday with setting fire to a proposed parenting clinic earlier this month, federal law enforcement officials said.
Tyler W. Massengill, 32, of Chillicothe, is charged with “maliciously damaging and attempting to damage with fire and explosives” the Peoria clinic, U.S. Attorneys said in a statement.
Massengill was arrested by Peoria Police on Tuesday. Online court records did not reveal whether he had appeared in court or whether he was still assigned an attorney.
US prosecutors said in a statement that surveillance camera video showed a man approaching the building with a bottle, lighting a rag at one end of it, smashing a window and inserting the incendiary device before quickly fleeing on foot.
Investigators said Massengill initially denied responsibility but later admitted to setting the fire. According to a U.S. District Court criminal complaint, he told them his then-girlfriend had an abortion three years ago and it upset him, and he figured if his actions caused “a little delay” in a person receiving health-center services, it was maybe “worth it all”.
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The attack on the clinic came on the night of January 15, two days after the state enacted sweeping reproductive health laws to protect abortion patients and providers.
There were no patients or staff inside, but the fire caused “extensive” damage that will cost more than $1 million and will force the clinic to close for months for repairs, said Jennifer Welch, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Illinois .
“This senseless act of vandalism has deprived the community of access to birth control, cancer screening, STI testing and treatment and gender-affirming care, and medical abortion services,” Welch said, describing the clinic’s range of services. She added: “We are pleased that an arrest has been made.”
According to the US Attorney’s Office, Massengill faces up to 40 years in prison with a minimum sentence of five years if convicted. The charges could also include supervised release for up to three years and a $250,000 fine.
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