FBI: Planned Parenthood clinic fire is possible hate crime
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A fire at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Columbia, Missouri, was intentionally set and is being investigated as a possible hate crime, the FBI said in a statement Tuesday.
The agency also said it is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction of anyone responsible for the fire early Sunday .
The FBI said surveillance video shows a person wearing dark clothing entering the Planned Parenthood-Columbia Health Center about 4:05 a.m. Sunday. When that person later walked out of the clinic, smoke could be seen coming from the building, according to the agency.
No one was inside the building when the fire was reported. The building’s sprinkler system extinguished the fire before Columbia firefighters arrived. Firefighters told police the fire was “suspicious in nature,” Columbia police said.
Federal civil rights crimes investigated by the FBI include violations of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, which makes it a crime to intentionally damage or destroy the property of a facility because it provides reproductive health services.
Planned Parenthood president and CEO Dr. Brandon Hill said in a statement Tuesday that the clinic will remain closed for the rest of the week. The staff hopes to reopen next week and is working with patients to reschedule appointments, he said.
Hill said as the investigation continues it is clear the fire was intentional aimed to disrupting services and block patient access to sexual and reproductive health care.
“Make no mistake -- we are committed to provide care in the Columbia community, and this crime will not deter us from our mission,” he said.
The Columbia clinic does not currently provide abortions because of new state regulations that took effect last year requiring abortion doctors to have admitting physician privileges at nearby hospitals. Finding a doctor with those privileges became more difficult after the University of Missouri Hospital in Columbia stopped offering the privileges in 2015.
Planned Parenthood has unsuccessfully sought a legal exemption to the requirements, leaving a clinic in St. Louis as the only one that provides abortions in Missouri.