A fire at a Planned Parenthood facility in Thousand Oaks, California, on Wednesday night was the result of arson, authorities determined.
Someone likely shattered a window at the office before throwing gasoline inside and igniting it, according to Ventura County sheriff’s Capt. John Reilly. Reilly noted that same facility was vandalized roughly six weeks ago.
The building’s fire alarm went off at about 11:30pm PT, police said. But by the time firefighters arrived, the small fire had been extinguished by the building’s sprinkler system. No one was inside at the time.
Tim Lohman, a detective with the Ventura County sheriff’s department, would not speculate as to whether recent controversy surrounding the women’s health organization had played a role in the fire.
“The reasons behind why the person did what they did, we don’t know,” Lohman said. “And that’s going to be part of the investigation and hopefully give us some foresight into why they targeted this specific location.”
“We are grateful for the quick and thorough response of law enforcement and that no one was in the building at the time of the fire,” said Jenna Tosh, CEO of Planned Parenthood in Ventura County, who added that the organization was still assessing the damage and working to reopen the clinic as soon as possible.
The Thousand Oaks clinic provides more than 7,000 patents a year with a wide range of healthcare services, Tosh said.
On Tuesday, Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards appeared before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Capitol Hill to defend her organization against allegations that it profits by selling fetal tissue. The allegations stem from a series of surreptitiously recorded videos published by an anti-abortion group called the Center for Medical Progress.
The videos, which contain roughly 12 hours of footage—which was blatantly manipulated in numerous post-production edits, according to video experts—sparked no less than 11 state and four federal investigations. Late last month, Missouri became the sixth state to clear Planned Parenthood of any wrongdoing.
Four weeks ago, a Planned Parenthood facility in Pullman, Washington, was set on fire causing significant damage to the building. Authorities determined the cause was arson.
An anti-abortion group had sponsored a protest at a nearby Planned Parenthood clinic in Spokane, Washington, less than two weeks before, where demonstrators gathered holding signs that accused the women’s health clinic of “selling baby parts.”
Less than one percent of Planned Parenthood clinics that provide surgical abortions donate fetal tissue with the consent of their patents to medical research laboratories. Federal law allows the clinics to seek financial reimbursement for the costs associated with storing and transporting the specimens.
“Due to the recent campaign of false attacks against Planned Parenthood, we have increased security measures over the last couple of months to ensure that both our patients and staff continue to be completely safe,” Kim Custer, Planned Parenthood’s executive vice president, told the Daily Dot.
“While this extremism is deeply troubling, our focus is on providing high-quality, compassionate healthcare to the millions of women, men, and young people across the country who rely on us,” Custer said.