(COSTA MESA, Calif.) — Two men, including an active duty Marine, are facing federal charges in connection with the firebombing of a Planned Parenthood clinic in California in 2022, the Department of Justice announced Wednesday.
Chance Brannon, 23, an active duty Marine stationed at Camp Pendleton, and Tibet Ergul, 21, both of Orange County, are accused of using a Molotov cocktail to firebomb a Costa Mesa clinic in March 2022, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California said in a release.
Special agents with the FBI and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service arrested the two men Wednesday morning without incident. They are charged with the use of an explosive or fire to damage real property affecting interstate commerce, according to the federal complaint.
The attack occurred around 1 a.m. on March 13, 2022. Prosecutors allege that Brannon and Ergul ignited and threw a Molotov cocktail at the front door of the clinic, causing a fire. No one was injured in the incident and the clinic had to temporarily close.
Security videos captured two suspects wearing hooded sweatshirts and face masks, and the FBI was offering an award of up to $25,000 for information leading to their identification, arrest and conviction.
On April 3, a witness contacted the FBI, identifying the suspects as Ergul and Brannon, according to the complaint. The witness stated that they were high school friends and that Ergul allegedly sent them text messages “admitting his involvement” in the attack, “including photographs of the Molotov cocktail,” the complaint stated.
Cell phone data allegedly placed Brannon near the Planned Parenthood clinic the night of the attack, according to the complaint.
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 if convicted, prosecutors said.
“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,” U.S. Attorney Martin Estrada said in a statement. “While it is fortunate that no one was physically harmed and responders were able to prevent the clinic from being destroyed, the defendants’ violent actions are entirely unacceptable.”
The defendants were expected to make their first court appearance on Wednesday. It wasn’t immediately clear if they have attorneys who can speak on their behalf.
Brannon enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in September 2018 and is currently ranked a corporal, according to information released by a Marine Expeditionary Force spokesperson.
The Marine Corps does not comment on ongoing legal matters, the spokesperson said.
The firebombing at the Costa Mesa clinic was one of several attacks on reproductive health service facilities around the country last year.
“Incidents of this nature have been on the rise at Planned Parenthood health centers across the country and this is unacceptable,” Planned Parenthood said in a statement to ABC Los Angeles station KABC earlier this year.
The FBI and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service are continuing to investigate the Costa Mesa incident.
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