The FBI on Tuesday offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or people responsible for the suspicious fire Sunday morning at Columbia’s Planned Parenthood clinic.
The clinic remains closed for repairs and will remain so for the remainder of the week, Planned Parenthood Great Plains President and CEO Brandon Hill said in statement issued late Tuesday. The clinic hopes to resume operations next week, he said.
"We remain focused on the health and safety of our patients, and we are committed to reopening our Columbia health center as soon as possible," he said.
The news release offering the reward states that law enforcement is looking for an individual wearing dark-colored clothing was seen on surveillance video about 4:05 a.m. walking on the clinic grounds. The same individual can be seen departing moments later, heading northbound on Providence Road, as smoke billowed from the building.
By the time the Columbia Fire Department responded to the scene, the clinic’s sprinkler system had extinguished the fire.
“The FBI Kansas City Division has opened a federal hate crime investigation into this incident and will continue to work jointly with the Columbia, Missouri Police Department and the City of Columbia Fire Department,” the release stated.
Under federal law, it is illegal to intentionally damage or destroy the property of a facility because it provides reproductive health services, the release stated.
“The circumstances surrounding the fire are coming into focus, and it is clear that this was an intentional effort to damage our facility in order to disrupt services and block patient access to sexual and reproductive health care," Hill said in the release. "We continue to cooperate with law enforcement on the active investigation and encourage anyone with information about the incident to contact authorities."
The FBI joined the investigation Monday at the invitation of the Columbia Police Department.
The clinic has been the target of regular protests, sometimes with only a handful of people and other times larger groups, for years. The services currently offered at the clinic include pregnancy testing and counseling and reproductive health services. The clinic has provided abortion services on an intermittent basis over the past decade but is not currently providing abortions.
The clinic has been fighting to regain its state license to provide abortions since the service ended in October when a federal judge refused to block a state law requiring admitting privileges at a local hospital for physicians offering the service at the clinic.
“Make no mistake — we are committed to providing care in the Columbia community, and this crime will not deter us from our mission," Hill said. "Our patients rely on us each day, and with a strong community of supporters beside us, we will reopen our doors as soon as possible.”
Anyone who was in the area of the Planned Parenthood facility during the early morning hours Sunday and may have information regarding the individual or individuals responsible for this crime is urged to call the FBI Jefferson City Office at (573) 636-8814 or submit a tip online at fbi.gov/tips.
The FBI stated it had no other comments on the investigation.