Thursday, June 15, 2023

U.S. Marine and Second Man Arrested for Firebombing Planned Parenthood Clinic in Orange County

 Santa Ana, California - Two individuals from Orange County, Tibet Ergul and Chance Brannon, were arrested today by special agents from the FBI and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service on federal charges related to the firebombing of a Planned Parenthood clinic in Costa Mesa. Ergul, 21, hailing from Irvine, and Brannon, 23, an active-duty Marine stationed at Camp Pendleton from San Juan Capistrano, were taken into custody without incident.

The arrests follow a joint investigation by local and federal law enforcement agencies into the March 13, 2022 incident, during which Ergul and Brannon allegedly used a Molotov cocktail to attack the clinic. The criminal complaint charges both defendants with using an explosive or fire to damage real property affecting interstate commerce. They are scheduled to appear in the United States District Court in Santa Ana later today.

United States Attorney Martin Estrada emphasized the seriousness of the attack, stating, "My office takes very seriously this brazen attack that targeted a facility that provides critical health care services to thousands of people in Orange County." Estrada further highlighted the fortunate absence of physical harm and the prompt response of responders that prevented the destruction of the clinic, condemning the defendants' violent actions as entirely unacceptable.

Donald Alway, the Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI's Los Angeles Field Office, echoed these sentiments, emphasizing that the act of launching an improvised explosive device into a public facility endangered lives and will not be tolerated. Alway commended the joint efforts of local and federal law enforcement that led to today's arrests, underscoring the commitment to hold accountable those who deliberately endanger the community.

According to the complaint, Ergul and Brannon carried out the attack in the early morning hours, igniting and throwing a Molotov cocktail at the clinic entrance. As a result, the Planned Parenthood Costa Mesa healthcare clinic was compelled to close the following day, resulting in the cancellation of approximately 30 appointments.

Security footage detailed in the affidavit captured two individuals wearing hooded sweatshirts and face masks approaching the Planned Parenthood facility around 1 a.m. on the day of the attack. The video shows them igniting a device and hurling it at the front door of the building. The complaint describes how the device landed against a southern wall, next to the glass door, and erupted into a fire that spread up the wall and across the ceiling above the entrance.

Authorities from the Costa Mesa Police Department and Fire Department swiftly responded to the scene, extinguishing the fire. Analysis of evidence collected at the site revealed that the glass container and other materials contained gasoline.

While a criminal complaint contains allegations, it is important to note that all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

The charge of using an explosive or fire to damage real property affecting interstate commerce carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison.

The ongoing investigation is being conducted by the FBI and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, with substantial assistance provided by the Costa Mesa Police Department.

Assistant United States Attorney Kathrynne Seiden of the Terrorism and Export Crimes Section will handle the prosecution of this case.

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