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Justice Department charges Marine in firebombing of California Planned Parenthood clinic

<i>Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images</i><br/>An active-duty Marine and another individual have been charged with using a Molotov cocktail to firebomb a Planned Parenthood clinic in Costa Mesa
Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images
An active-duty Marine and another individual have been charged with using a Molotov cocktail to firebomb a Planned Parenthood clinic in Costa Mesa

By Holmes Lybrand and Jack Forrest, CNN

(CNN) — An active-duty Marine and another individual have been charged with using a Molotov cocktail to firebomb a Planned Parenthood clinic in Costa Mesa, California, in March 2022, the Justice Department announced Wednesday.

According to the DOJ, the two men from California – Chance Brannon, a corporal in the Marines, and Tibet Ergul – were arrested and charged Wednesday morning with “using an explosive or fire to damage real property affecting interstate commerce.” The men could face up to 20 years in federal prison, according to the DOJ.

Brannon, 23, and Ergul, 21, were expected to make their initial appearance in federal court Wednesday afternoon in Santa Ana, California.

“The complaint alleges that Ergul and Brannon attacked the clinic during the early morning hours of March 13, 2022,” the DOJ stated in its announcement of the arrests, “by igniting and a throwing a Molotov cocktail at the clinic entrance. As a result of the fire, the Planned Parenthood Costa Mesa healthcare clinic was forced to close the following morning and cancel approximately 30 appointments.”

The Planned Parenthood in Costa Mesa provides reproductive health services, including abortion-related services, and was forced to cancel dozens of appointments after the incident.

Nobody was harmed during the incident, Planned Parenthood said in a statement thanking the FBI and Costa Mesa law enforcement on Wednesday.

“While we are fortunate and grateful that no one was harmed, we stand firm against those who would wish to intimidate our staff, patients and supporters. Their safety is our highest priority, and we will not be deterred in our mission to provide expert, compassionate care to our community, as we have done for over 50 years,” said Nichole Ramirez, spokesperson for Planned Parenthood of Orange and San Bernardino Counties.

The US Marine Corps declined to comment to CNN, citing the ongoing legal matter.

The FBI in January offered a $25,000 reward for information on the incident, as part of what the agency called “a national effort to bring awareness to a series of attacks and threats targeting reproductive health service facilities across the country.”

FBI Director Christopher Wray said at the time that the reward reflected the agency’s “commitment to vigorously pursue investigations into crimes against pregnancy resource centers, faith-based organizations, and reproductive health clinics across the country.”

The National Abortion Federation, a professional association for abortion providers, reported a “sharp increase” in violence at abortion clinics in 2022, the year the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. The organization recorded four incidents of arson in 2022, up from two the year before and 218 reports of deaths threats or threats of harm, an increase from 182 in 2021.

Earlier in the week, another California man pleaded guilty to making death threats to Planned Parenthood facilities in Santa Barbara, California, and Los Angeles following the overturning of Roe v. Wade in June 2022, according to the DOJ.

This story has been updated with additional details.

The-CNN-Wire
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CNN’s Jamie Gumbrecht and Jack Forrest contributed to this report.

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