CHICAGO– A central Illinois man was charged Wednesday with burning down a family planning clinic earlier this month, federal law enforcement said.
Tyler W. Massengill, 32, of Chillicothe, is charged with “malicious use of fire and an explosive to damage and attempt to damage” the Peoria clinic, the US attorney’s office said in a statement.
Massengill was arrested by Peoria police on Tuesday. Online court records did not indicate whether he had ever appeared in court or been assigned a lawyer.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a statement that security camera video showed a man approaching the building with a bottle, lighting a rag at one end, smashing a window and putting the incendiary device inside, before fleeing quickly on foot.
Investigators said Massengill initially denied responsibility but later admitted setting the fire. According to a U.S. District Court criminal complaint, he told them that his then-girlfriend had an abortion three years ago and that it upset him, and he believed that if his actions caused “an little delay” to a person receiving services at the health center, it might be worth it.
The attack on the clinic took place on the night of January 15, two days after the state enacted sweeping reproductive health care legislation aimed at protecting abortion patients and providers.
No patients or staff were inside, but the fire caused “extensive” damage that will cost more than $1 million and force the clinic to close for months for repairs, Jennifer Welch said , 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, as well as medical abortion services” , said Welch, describing the range of services provided by the clinic. She added: “We are delighted that an arrest has been made.”
If convicted, Massengill faces up to 40 years in prison with a minimum sentence of five years, according to the statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office. The charge could also result in up to three years of supervised release and a $250,000 fine.
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