Police arrest suspect in Pensacola abortion clinic fire

By | 01.05.12 | 1:26 pm

Bobby Joe Rogers (Pic via escambiaso.com)

Police today announced they have made an arrest following a fire at a Pensacola area abortion clinic early Sunday morning.

After a joint investigation involving the Division of State Fire Marshal’s Bureau of Fire and Arson Investigations and other members of the Joint Terrorism Task Force, officers determined that Bobby Joe Rogers of Tuscaloosa, Ala., set fire to the clinic, causing approximately $300,000 in damage.

The same clinic has been the site of numerous protests and controversies for nearly 30 years. In fact, the American Family Planning Clinic was also the site of a 1984 bombing and the 1994 murder of abortion practitioner Dr. John Britton.

The doctor, along with a volunteer who escorted patients to and from the clinic, were shot to death as they arrived at the clinic in July 1994. At the time, the clinic was known as the Pensacola Ladies Center. The gunman, Paul Hill, was executed in 2003.

On Christmas Eve 1984, two 21-year-old men placed a bomb in a crawl space beneath the bottom floor of the center. The men also detonated bombs at two other Florida abortion clinics on the same night. The fiancée of one of the men later explained to reporters that the bombs were to be “a gift to Jesus on His birthday.”

Last year’s legislative session saw numerous bills targeting abortion in the state, and this year likely won’t be much different. When lawmakers reconvene next week to begin their annual session, they’ll find no less than seven bills dealing with abortion.

No one was hurt during the Sunday morning fire, which began around 1 a.m.; a preliminary investigation found that the fire began outside the clinic.

According to a press release, “members of the community came forward with information that ultimately led to the arrest of Rogers, who is being held at the Escambia County Jail pending a federal indictment by the U.S. Attorney’s Office.” Rogers could face up to 20 years in prison.

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