Suspect captured on camera in Planned Parenthood arson

Published: Jan. 16, 2023 at 7:29 PM CST
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PEORIA (25 News Now) - Peoria Police are looking for the person who firebombed the Planned Parenthood facility late Sunday night. Now, the safety of those looking for pregnancy resources is in question.

According to the Peoria Fire Department, the fire happened around 11:30 p.m. Sunday. Firefighters and paramedics responded around 12:15 a.m., finding flames and smoke coming out of a front window. After putting it out, firefighters searched the building and found no one inside, but a firefighter was taken to the hospital for non-life threatening injuries. Total damages are estimated at around $150,000.

A neighbor who lives on the street tells 25News she was the one who called the incident in. According to her, an individual pulled up in a car with a maroon door at the corner close to her house. They then took what looked like a lunchbox out of the car and walked down the sidewalk towards the facility. That’s when the witness saw the suspect smash a window in, throw a flaming object inside, and run down the length of the street back to their vehicle, after which they drove away from the scene quickly.

The Fire Department says this isn’t the first incident of its kind at the facility. It marks the latest act of vandalism that Planned Parenthood says is on the rise across the state and country, a trend local lawmakers are also noticing.

“We have extremists in our midst, right here in Peoria, who will stop at nothing to make a point,” says Peoria Senator Dave Koehler.

The impact goes further than just the physical damage. One Central Illinois resident that received help offered by Planned Parenthood years ago reflects on what the crime means for girls and women across the area.

“I feel like they’re going to look at that and think if someone’s going to do this to a building, how does this reflect on me,” says Hollie, referring to the damage caused by the fire.

For people like Hollie, that means disrupting the safety she felt years ago.

“It’s important to convey to women and young women that there’s help out there.”

Planned Parenthood issued a statement to 25News in response to the incident Monday. It reads as follows:

“On Sunday evening the Peoria Planned Parenthood Health Center was vandalized when someone threw a fire accelerant through a window, causing a fire in the building. We are grateful to the prompt response from firefighters who put out the fire, however there is significant damage to the building. Thankfully, no patients or team members were present or harmed. Senseless acts of vandalism have been on the rise across the country and Illinois has become a target as extreme and divisive rhetoric increases. We are working with local authorities and will prosecute the vandal(s) to the fullest extent of the law. We will not stop providing the essential health care our patients need and deserve. We pledge to work swiftly to meet the needs of our Peoria patients and those traveling from other states to receive reproductive health care.”

The facility is yet to respond to requests for comment regarding how the fire will affect their operations going forward.

According to an organization spokesperson, all Planned Parenthood health centers offer medication abortion. However, Peoria does NOT provide in-clinic abortions.

You can find more information about the Peoria location and its offerings by clicking the link here. You can find a list of locations that provide in-clinic services by clicking the link here.