CHICAGO — A central Illinois man has pleaded guilty to setting fire to a Planned Parenthood clinic last month, the U.S. attorney’s office said Friday.
Tyler W. Massengill, 32, of Chillicothe admitted to setting fire to the Peoria clinic with an explosive on Jan. 15, two days after Illinois approved expansive reproductive health care legislation aimed at protecting abortion patients and providers.
Massengill, who pleaded guilty Thursday, is in jail awaiting sentencing scheduled for July 6 at the federal courthouse in Peoria. He faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.
Security cameras caught him approaching the building with a bottle, lighting a rag on one end of it, smashing a window and putting the incendiary device inside before quickly fleeing on foot. No patients or staff were inside.
When Massengill was arrested on Jan. 24, he told investigators that he set fire to the building because he was reminded of an abortion his ex-girlfriend had three years ago, according to the criminal complaint.
A lawyer for Massengill did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Molotov cocktail-induced blaze caused more than $1 million in damage, according to Jennifer Welch, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Illinois.
“We’re extremely pleased Tyler Massengill has pleaded guilty to setting our Peoria health center on fire and that there is a quick resolution to the case,”
Welch said Friday. “However, the fact still remains that the Peoria community has been robbed of equitable access to reproductive heath care until we can rebuild.”
Planned Parenthood of Illinois spokesperson Mary Jane Maharry said that the Peoria clinic is still closed and “won’t be open for several months.”
According to the criminal complaint, Massengill told investigators he thought that if his actions caused “a little delay” in a patient receiving services at the health center, it may have been “all worth it.”
Savage is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.