Missouri Man Charged with Setting Fire to Planned Parenthood Clinic

A 42-year-old man was charged for attempting to burn down a Planned Parenthood Clinic in Columbia. 

Wesley Brian Kaster was arrested in connection with an arson case dating back to 10 February, in which he used a "Molotov cocktail-type device."

At this stage, Kaster faces a preliminary charge of using fire or an explosive to maliciously damage a building that receives federal funding.

The Planned Parenthood clinic was vacant at the time, and no one was injured. The fire was extinguished by the sprinkler system in the clinic.

If found guilty of setting the fire intentionally, the fire could be in violation of the federal Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act. 

The FBI has reason to believe that the attack on the Planned Parenthood clinic could be a hate crime. 

Planned Parenthood is a leading provider of abortions, and the group's clinics have repeatedly been targeted. Don Ledford, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's office, explained: 

"All I can say at this point is that it is an ongoing investigation and we are early in the process. A complaint is a temporary charge; this case will be presented to a federal grand jury in the near future, which could return an indictment with different or additional charges."

Planned Parenthood is grateful for the support it received from the county's law enforcement, as well as emergency services' swift response to the fire. They said in a statement: 

"Let this send a clear message: Blocking access to essential health care is against the law, whether it takes the form of violence and vandalism or threats against our patients, our providers, or our supporters. With sexual and reproductive health care under attack in Missouri, our mission is more important than ever before."

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