KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — A Paw Paw man has agreed to plead guilty to setting fire to a Planned Parenthood clinic in Kalamazoo in July.
Joshua Brereton agreed to plead guilty to a federal charge of arson, according to paperwork filed in federal court Friday. In exchange, federal prosecutors agreed to drop a second charge of damaging property providing reproductive health services.
The fire was sparked on the afternoon of July 31 at the Planned Parenthood of Michigan on West Michigan Avenue near S. Drake Road. The plea agreement says Brereton went there with a citronella tiki torch fuel, a Duraflame fire starter log and a lighter that he had bought earlier in the day at a Walmart in Paw Paw. He got through a 6-foot fence by “tampering with the bolts,” the court document says. He then used the torch fuel and lighter to set fires near the front entrance and southwest corner of the building and threw the burning Duralog onto the roof.
Firefighters doused the flames in about 10 minutes. The outside of the building sustained some damage. The fire was on a Sunday, so the clinic was closed, no one was there and no one was hurt.
The arsonist was caught on surveillance camera. Police released images, soon got a tip and Brereton was arrested three days after the fire. Authorities cited his anti-abortion rights opinions as his motive for starting the fire. Court documents show he had previously posted a video on YouTube calling abortion “genocide.”
Brereton signed the agreement Sept. 23 and the government signed on Friday. Brereton was in a federal courtroom in Grand Rapids Wednesday afternoon for a plea hearing, verbally confirming the content of the plea agreement document. A judge may still reject the deal.
Sentencing was scheduled for Feb. 6. Brereton faces between five and 20 years in a federal prison and is expected to be ordered to pay about $21,000 in restitution to cover repairs to the building and landscaping.