Federal authorities on Wednesday arrested a Camp Pendleton Marine and another man on suspicion of firebombing a Planned Parenthood clinic last year in Orange County using a Molotov cocktail.
Authorities said the early morning attack in March 2022 did not cause any injuries but burned parts of the entrance to the Costa Mesa clinic, forcing it to shut down for the day and prompting the cancellation of about 30 appointments. The FBI offered a $25,000 reward earlier this year for information about the attackers.
On Wednesday morning, agents from the FBI and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service arrested Cpl. Chance Brannon, a 23-year-old San Juan Capistrano resident, as well as Tibet Ergul, 21, of Irvine, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles.
Both were expected to make an initial appearance Wednesday in federal court in Santa Ana, according to prosecutors. Court records in the case were not immediately available, but prosecutors said both would be charged with using an explosive or fire to damage property affecting interstate commerce, a charge with a 20-year maximum prison sentence.
“The depraved act of launching an improvised explosive device into a public facility put lives at risk and will not be tolerated,” Donald Alway, the FBI’s assistant director in charge of the Los Angeles field office, said in a news release.
The Marine Corps said it does not comment on legal matters but provided Brannon’s service record, which showed he enlisted in 2018 and is assigned to 1st Radio Battalion, I Marine Expeditionary Force Information Group with a military occupational specialty as a Persian-Farsi cryptolinguist.
In a statement citing the criminal complaint, prosecutors said Brannon and Ergul, dressed in hoodies, masks and gloves, approached the facility around 1 a.m. on March 13, 2022, and ignited a glass bottle filled with gasoline that they threw at the building’s front door. The device landed against a wall and sparked a fire that spread up the wall and across the ceiling above the clinic’s glass doors, prosecutors said.
Brannon is at least the fourth local Marine charged or convicted of federal crimes this year. Last month, Cpl. Micah Coomer pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge in connection with breaching the U.S. Capitol Building on Jan. 6, 2021. Lance Cpl. Christian Ferrari is facing federal charges in San Diego for allegedly selling firearms — including short-barreled ghost rifles — without a license. And in April, a federal judge sentenced former Marine Roberto Salazar II to 12 years in prison for running a drug-trafficking cell while he was on active duty at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar.
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