Prosecutors in Missouri have charged a 42-year-old man with arson after he allegedly attempted to burn down a Planned Parenthood in Columbia.
Wesley Brian Kaster was arrested on Saturday, three weeks after investigators began looking into a suspicious fire that started at the clinic on February 10, ABC17 reports. He’s been charged with one count of “maliciously damaging a building, by means of fire or an explosive, owned by an organization that receives federal assistance.”
According to ABC17:
Surveillance video from the clinic and neighboring businesses showed Kaster early Feb. 10 parking his van near the door of the clinic and carrying a bucket to the clinic’s outer door, the U.S. attorney’s office said in a news release. Kaster broke the front door, put the bucket inside the building and threw something resembling a Molotov cocktail inside, a federal affidavit says.
Kaster watched the building from outside before enter through the broken door, the affidavit states. A short time later two people who had walked to the biulding went with Kaster across Providence Road to his waiting van and drove away, the U.S. attorney’s release said.
Kaster returned later and walked to the door with an object in his hand before smoke could be seen billowing from the broken glass door, according to the release. Kaster ran along the north side of the road from the clinic, the release said.
The clinic was previously just one of two locations in all of Missouri offering abortion services. It stopped last year after its only doctor was unable to secure admitting privileges at a nearby hospital.
In a statement, Planned Parenthood Great Plains president and CEO Dr. Brandon J. Hill praised authorities for Kaster’s arrest:
We are grateful for law enforcement’s swift and serious response to this crime. 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.
“Health care is a human right, and we will not stop fighting for the rights of our patients,” the statement continued. “Our doors are open in Columbia, and we remain committed to serving this community.”