KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — A man has been sentenced to serve time in prison for setting a Kalamazoo Planned Parenthood on fire.
Joshua Brereton was sentenced on Monday to serve five years in prison with two years of supervised release. He was also ordered to pay $32,699.45 in restitution.
The fire happened on July 31, 2022 at the Planned Parenthood located on West Michigan Avenue near S. Drake Road.
Court documents say Brereton got through a 6-foot fence on the property by “tampering with the bolts,” and used citronella tiki torch fuel and a lighter to start the fire before throwing a burning Duraflame fire starter log onto the roof.
When firefighters arrived on scene, they were able to quickly put the fire out. The building was unoccupied at the time and no one was hurt.
Planned Parenthood was closed the next day because of the fire.
Brereton was arrested and charged with arson in early August and was later also charged with damaging property providing reproductive health services. He agreed to plead guilty to arson and federal prosecutors agreed to drop the second charge.
Prior to the fire, he had posted videos on YouTube calling abortion “genocide” and telling viewers to “step out of your comfort zone,” according to court documents.
In court on Monday, he said he loves God, family and country.
“I just wanted to protect someone. I don’t know what was going through my mind. I didn’t go about it the right way,” he told the court.
He couldn’t say for certain why he tried to set the building on fire.
“Why the alarm bells weren’t going off in the defendant’s head as he was planning and carrying this out is mystifying to the court,” District Court Judge Paul Maloney told Brereton.
A representative for Planned Parenthood who spoke in court during the sentencing said the fire caused more than $30,000 worth of damage, forced it to close because of air quality and “disrupted the sense of safety and security.”
Brereton’s defense lawyer, Donald Smith, said Brereton sees abortion as a black and white issue while it’s really a “gray” issue.
“When people see something gray as black and white, they haven’t been exposed to the other side of the issue,” Smith said.
Smith said Brereton is remorseful.
“Over time, (Brereton) would have realized there’s another side of the issue,” Smith said.
In a news conference following the sentencing, U.S. Attorney Mark Totten described Brereton’s actions as “political violence.”
“Today was an important moment, a moment of accountability for what was really a senseless act of violence,” Totten said. “…Violence is never, ever an acceptable way to settle our disputes.”
He said his office will work to “protect the right to access reproductive health services.”
“The Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety appreciates the partnership with our federal partners. Today, that partnership helped bring along justice in our city,” KDPS Chief Dave Boysen said in a statement. “Thank you to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Michigan for helping bring Joshua Brereton to justice after his attempt to light a Planned Parenthood on fire. Acts of violence, whether they are politically motivated or not, cannot be allowed to happen in our community.”
— News 8’s Nick Ponton contributed to this report.