A Missouri man whose wife posted on Facebook that Planned Parenthood “kills people” was charged Monday with arson in connection to a February 10 fire at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Columbia, Missouri.
Brian Kaster, 42, was arrested Saturday and charged with maliciously damaging a building owned by an organization that receives federal funding, the Missourian reports.
Surveillance video showed a person wearing dark clothes leaving the clinic after 4 a.m. Sunday before smoke was spotted coming out of the building. The sprinklers doused the fire out; no one was hurt, as the building was unoccupied.
According to the affidavit describing the alleged crime, at around 2:30 a.m., Kaster broke the clinic’s front door, put a bucket inside the clinic, and tossed a “Molotov cocktail-type device” inside the bucket. About 20 minutes later, “two unidentified pedestrians approached, and Kaster fled” from the clinic, got into his vehicle, and drove away. He returned to the building at around 4 a.m. and entered the clinic with what the affidavit describes as “an undiscernible item in his left hand.” Surveillance cameras showed smoke begin “billowing” from the clinic at 4:03 a.m.
Police investigators reviewed social media accounts connected to Kaster and found his wife in October 2015 put on her Facebook page a post “depicting a handgun and the words, ‘Guns Don’t Kill People, Planned Parenthood Kills People.'”
It’s clear the fire was meant to disrupt services and block patient access to sexual and reproductive health care, Dr. Brandon Hill, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Great Plains, said in a statement.
“Make no mistake—we are committed to providing care in the Columbia community, and this crime will not deter us from our mission. Our patients rely on us each day, and with a strong community of supporters beside us, we will reopen our doors as soon as possible,” he said.
The Columbia, Missouri Planned Parenthood clinic doesn’t provide abortion services after a panel at University of Missouri Health Care voted to stop offering abortion care in 2015 amid a Republican-led investigation on abortion in the state, the Associated Press reported.
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.
Attacks on clinics are not uncommon in the United States. In February 2018, a suspect drove a stolen bakery truck into a New Jersey Planned Parenthood clinic, injuring three, including a pregnant woman.
Marckles Alcius of Lowell, Massachusetts, faces charges for what was found to be an intentional attack, and pleaded not guilty. The case, considered an act of terrorism, is pending. Alcius’ lawyer has requested an adjournment to have his client evaluated psychologically, according to Essex County Prosecutor’s Office spokesperson Katherine Carter.
The East Orange health center that provides abortion care was closed for weeks after the attack and media outlets noted the defendant’s anti-choice activity on social media.
Attacks on Planned Parenthood and other health clinics that provide abortion services have escalated in recent years, according to the National Abortion Federation (NAF).
“With anti-abortion extremists feeling emboldened by the current political environment, trespassing more than tripled, death threats/threats of harm nearly doubled, and incidents of obstruction rose from 580 in 2016 to more than 1,700 in 2017. We also continued to see an increase in targeted hate mail/harassing phone calls and clinic invasions and had the first attempted bombing in many years,” the 2017 violence and disruption report notes.