- Investigators quickly identified a suspect as they responded to an arson at a Planned Parenthood.
- Joshua Brereton had posted a YouTube video in which he referred to abortion as “genocide.”
- Brereton is now facing a criminal charge: arson of an organization receiving federal funding.
On Sunday, investigators in Michigan responded to a report of a fire at a Planned Parenthood facility and quickly determined the blaze resulted from arson. On the roof, they discovered a Duraflame fire starter log that led them to a suspect: Joshua Brereton.
Prosecutors on Thursday charged Brereton with arson of an organization receiving federal funding — an offense with a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison — following an investigation that uncovered a YouTube video in which the 25-year-old Michigan man referred to abortion as “genocide.”
In court papers, an agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives recounted a days-long investigation into a fire that prevented the Planned Parenthood in Kalamazoo from opening the following day.
With the help of a Walmart employee, investigators established within a day of the blaze that Brereton had purchased a Duraflame starter log about an hour before the first reports of the fire at the Planned Parenthood facility, according to court documents. Brereton’s receipt showed that he also purchased a lighter and citronella torch fuel, which investigators suspect he used to set fire to bushes outside the Planned Parenthood building, the ATF agent said.
After releasing surveillance camera footage to the public, investigators also received a tip identifying Brereton. Investigators then “began looking into Brereton,” the ATF agent wrote in an affidavit supporting the arson charge.
On his YouTube channel, investigators found a video of Brereton exercising in a short-sleeve shirt that revealed a crown tattoo on his left forearm matching a tattoo that appeared in Walmart security camera footage. Investigators also reviewed a July 3 video in which Brereton railed against abortion.
“Like right now, we have a genocide happening. Genocide! Of babies! And people think this is always a hot topic,” he said, according to the ATF agent’s affidavit. “You literally have neighbors who think it’s okay to kill a baby. And I won’t get too much into it other than read a science book. It’s not a religious debate. It’s not a political debate. Scientific law says that the fetus is a brand new human being. And we’re killing that person. Or some people are killing those people. And so we have conflicts of interest. We have government okays for the killing of peoples.”
Later in the video, Brereton said: “So step out of your comfort zone. Lend a hand. Change society from the inside out. Don’t put it on someone else and let it trickle down. It doesn’t trickle down.”
The video was posted more than a week after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, eliminating the constitutional right to an abortion after nearly a half-century.
A defense attorney has not yet entered an appearance on Brereton’s behalf in federal court.
In the immediate aftermath of the ruling, Attorney General Merrick Garland said the decision “deals a devastating blow to reproductive freedom in the United States,” and he pledged that the Justice Department would enforce laws making it illegal to obstruct access to reproductive health services through violence, threats of violence, or property damage.
On Tuesday, the Justice Department sued Idaho over a strict state abortion law set to take effect this month, arguing that it would inhibit emergency room doctors from performing abortions that are necessary for women facing medical emergencies. At the White House the next day, Garland pointed to the lawsuit as evidence that the Justice Department will “consider every tool at our disposal” to prevent states from infringing on federal protections for reproductive rights.
“Five weeks ago, I promised that the Justice Department would work tirelessly to protect reproductive freedom, and that we would not waver from our founding responsibility to protect the civil rights of all Americans,” he said, of his initial reaction to the Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe. “That is what we have done, and that is what we will continue to do.”