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Illinois man charged in Planned Parenthood arson

Tyler W. Massengill, 32, of Chillicothe, Ill., was charged Wednesday with setting fire to a Planned Parenthood facility in Peoria. Image courtesy of Justice Department

Jan. 26 (UPI) — Authorities have arrested an Illinois man on charges of setting fire to a Planned Parenthood facility earlier this month.

Tyler W. Massengill, 32, of Chillicothe, Ill., was charged Wednesday with malicious use of fire and an explosive to damage, and attempt to damage, the Justice Department said in a statement.

Police in Peoria, located about 75 miles north of Springfield, said that officers had responded the night of Jan. 15 to a fire at a Planned Parenthood facility in the city, resulting in one firefighter sustaining non-life-threatening injuries.

The cause of the fire was determined to be arson.

The criminal complaint states the investigation revealed that a nearby resident had observed a “white older model pick-up truck with a loud exhaust” in the area prior to the fire igniting.

The witness described the truck as having one door a darker color than the rest of the vehicle and said they had seen “a white male, approximately 40-50 years of age, wearing a flannel shirt, with a medium length hair” running toward the Planned Parenthood facility.

Surveillance footage obtained by police from the area depicts the vehicle as described leaving the scene moments after the fire began while footage from the Planned Parenthood facility shows a man wearing a coat and hood pulled over his head carrying a bottle about the size of one that would hold laundry detergent.

“The male subject lit a rag on fire on one end of the bottle, smashed a window with an object, then placed the container inside of the [Planned Parenthood] building,” the complaint states. “The subject then quickly left the area on foot.”

Police then published an image of the pickup, which attracted several tips from the public, one of which informed authorities of the vehicle’s license plate and the other from a woman who said she had Massengill’s truck in her Sparland, Ill., garage.

The unnamed woman told police that the day after the arson attack occurred, Massengill had arrived at her residence and asked her to keep his truck in her garage and “arranged for her to paint the doors on his truck for $300,” according to the court document.

The truck, which had been painted white, was then seized by the FBI on Monday.

On Tuesday, Massengill called the Peoria Police Department and said he wanted to speak about the incident.

According to the complaint, Massengill first denied responsibility before admitting to investigators that he broke the window of the Planned Parenthood facility and placed a burning container inside.

The charging document states that he told investigators that three years prior he had been in a relationship with a woman who became pregnant but decided to have an abortion.

Something the day he set the fire reminded him of the abortion, which made him upset, he said, according to the complaint, and he told the investigators that if his actions that night caused “‘a little delay’ in a person receiving services at the PHC, his conduct may have been ‘all worth it.'”

If convicted, Massengill faces a mandatory sentence of at least five years’ imprisonment and a maximum of 40 years.

The arrest comes amid a series of threats directed at reproductive health facilities nationwide and after the FBI last week offered a $25,000 reward for information concerning such attacks and threats.

On Tuesday, two Florida residents were charged with participating in a conspiracy that threatened several reproductive health facilities in the state.

According to prosecutors, Caleb Freestone, 27, and Amber Smith-Stewart, 23, spray-painted threats on pregnancy resources facilities in the Florida cities of Winter Haven, Hollywood and Hialeah.

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