Deputies looking for man they say committed arson at Fort Myers Planned Parenthood center
Lee County deputies are looking for a man who committed arson at the Planned Parenthood center in Fort Myers.
Southwest Florida Crime Stoppers said the crime occurred Saturday evening at the center, located at 6418 Commerce Park Dr., east of Metro Parkway and north of Daniels Parkway.
The suspect is described as heavy set, 5 feet, 11inches to 6 feet, 3 inches in height, and 22 to 28 years old. He was driving a dark in color 2017-2019 Kia Rio, according to Crime Stoppers.
Crime Stoppers Coordinator Trish Routte said two separate burn marks were found on an exterior wall and damage to the building wasn’t extensive. The video shows the suspect outside the building at 6:51 p.m. Saturday. A few minutes later, he can be seen pouring gas from a gas can into two glass bottles before setting them on fire. He then threw the bottles at the building. He left at 7:09 p.m.
“I’m sorry that someone would do something so violent,” said Stephanie Fraim, the president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida. “I’m sorry that their life is so disturbed that they would think this is an appropriate action.”
It’s an action that Planned Parenthood leaders believe is a targeted attack on their staff, their patients and the services they provide.
“I imagine they want to disrupt our care and perhaps try to shut us down by damaging our building,” Fraim said. “Our staff are understandably shook up a little that someone would attack a health care organization when people are coming to us for health and safety.”
While demonstrators outside say they don’t agree with the abortion procedures Planned Parenthood provides, they say they also don’t agree with violence.
“When we heard the news, we thought, ‘Oh, that’s horrible,’ Antoinette Holmlund said. “I mean, who would put a building on fire?”
Although the incident served as a shock to Fraim and her staff, she is confident in their security measures to protect staff and patients.
“We have cameras. We have specially built buildings to withstand these types of attacks,” Fraim said. “It’s unsettling but not scary.”
Anyone who recognizes the suspect is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-780-TIPS (8477) or submit a tip online at southwestfloridacrimestoppers.com. You can remain anonymous and could be eligible for a cash reward of up to $3,000.