A Chillicothe man has been charged in connection with the Jan. 15 arson at the Peoria Planned Parenthood clinic.
Tyler Wayne Massengill, 32, was charged Wednesday in federal court in Peoria with malicious use of fire and explosives to damage a property used for interstate commerce.
Court documents say Massengill carried a detergent-sized bottle to the building, set fire to a rag on one end of the bottle, broke a window and placed the container inside the building before running away.
Investigators claim that Massengill admitted to breaking the window at the Peoria Clinic and placing the burning container inside the building. Planned Parenthood of Illinois officials say the damage caused the clinic on N. Knoxville Ave. 2709 will remain closed for months.
No one was in the building at the time of the fire, but a Peoria firefighter sustained minor injuries while putting out the blaze.
Massengill reportedly told investigators his actions “made it all worth it” if he caused “a little delay” in someone using services from the clinic, which doesn’t perform surgical abortions but does prescribe abortion pills.
At first, Massengill denied having anything to do with the fire, but prosecutors said he later changed his story and told investigators about a Peoria-area woman he dated three years ago, who told him over the phone that she had an abortion when he was away working in Alaska.
Massengill reportedly told investigators he was upset after something reminded him of the abortion around January 15.
He was identified by authorities after Peoria police received a tip about the suspect’s white pickup truck on Jan. 17 after a picture of the vehicle was released to local news organizations. The truck had a distinctive red driver’s door.
The tipster provided a license plate number for the truck that matches Massengill. A photo from a license plate reading database also revealed that the same truck had been parked near the intersection of McClure Avenue and Sheridan Road in Peoria’s Center Bluff neighborhood on January 5.
Prosecutors said the day after the arson, Massengill offered to pay a woman in Sparland $300 to store the truck in her garage and repaint the truck’s distinctive red driver’s door.
She said she messaged him on Facebook on Jan. 18 to get his truck. Massengill reportedly said he saw his truck on the news but denied any connection to the Planned Parenthood arson.
The FBI confiscated Massengill’s truck from the Sparland garage on Monday. The truck still had the same Illinois license plate, but the driver’s door was repainted white. The authorities discovered a paint grinder with red paint residue.
Massengill called the Peoria police Tuesday and said he wanted to speak about the incident at Planned Parenthood. He was arrested when he arrived at around 6:00 p.m
Because a firefighter was injured in the Jan. 15 fire, Massengill faces up to 40 years in prison if convicted. He could also be fined $250,000.
Planned Parenthood of Illinois President and CEO Jennifer Welch said she is pleased with the arrest. She now estimates the cost of restoring the Peoria Clinic to be more than $1 million.
“This senseless act of vandalism has deprived the community of access to birth control, cancer screening, STI testing and treatment, gender-affirming care and medical abortion services,” Welch said in a statement. “We appreciate the tremendous support from the community, state and nation as we continue to meet the needs of our patients through telemedicine and at our other 16 health centers across the state.”
Massengill has a long history of arrests and convictions in Peoria County, including 2011 convictions for criminal mob operation, 2015 conviction for criminal unlawful possession of cannabis, and 2016 conviction for criminal theft. The court dismissed a 2012 charge of aggravated domestic assault and strangulation.
In a December 28, 2020 Facebook post, Massengill asked if anyone wanted to go with him to what later became known as the January 6 riot in Washington, DC. It is unclear whether Massengill actually took part. In reply to another commenter, he also asked whether guns would be allowed at a Jan. 6 rally in Springfield.
In a December 25, 2020 post, Massengill also referenced Planned Parenthood’s breakup in a response to another commenter who asked about throwing rocks. Massengill’s original post was about violent incidents in other states and an appeal for people to “recognize what’s going on.”
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