Planned Parenthood of Delaware is seeking to reassure patients in the wake of an incident at its Newark clinic last week.
Prosecutors have charged an 18-year-old Middletown man they say vandalized the clinic on Delaware Avenue and then threw a Molotov cocktail at the building, causing minor damage. The defendant, Samuel James Gulick, has a history of anti-abortion social media posts.
On Tuesday, Ruth Lytle-Barnaby, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Delaware, called the incident “an act of domestic terrorism.”
“The safety of patients and staff is our top priority, and Planned Parenthood of Delaware has strong measures in place to ensure that our health centers are safe, supportive, welcoming environments for all people to get the high-quality health care they need – regardless of their race, gender identity, sexual orientation, where they are from, or how much money they have,” Lytle-Barnaby said in a prepared statement.
Meanwhile, a number of local elected officials released statements Tuesday condemning the incident and reaffirming their support for Planned Parenthood.
“Hate has come to Newark. It is not welcome here,” State Rep. Paul Baumbach said. “In Newark we believe in the value of varying opinions, varying backgrounds, listening to each other, civic engagement, mutual respect. In short, we believe in community. Please join me in saying no to hate.”
State Sen. Bryan Townsend concurred.
"Women have the right to make decisions about their own bodies. No man – whether an elected official, or a craven domestic terrorist – should be able to deprive a woman of exercising her rights or make her fearful about doing so," Townsend said.
Delaware’s congressional delegation expressed similar sentiments.
“These acts of hate are meant to deter and discourage us. They won’t. I stand with Planned Parenthood as they continue their mission of providing health care to women across Delaware,” Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester said.
“We will not tolerate and we will not be intimidated by this kind of hateful violence,” Sen. Chris Coons said.
“Together, Delawareans stand united against acts of hate and intimidation in our communities,” Sen. Tom Carper said.
The incident happened around 2:15 a.m. Jan. 3, according to Kim Reeves, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Wilmington.
Gulick was captured on surveillance video standing on the front porch of the Planned Parenthood building and spray-painting “Deus Vult” in red letters, according to court documents.
The Latin phrase means “God wills it.” While it originated during the Crusades, the phrase is often used by the alt-right movement.
Gulick stepped off the porch, removed the Molotov cocktail from a plastic bag, lit it and threw it at the front door of the building, court documents allege. A Molotov cocktail is a crude explosive device usually consisting of a bottle filled with flammable liquid and a means of ignition.
The device exploded, but self-extinguished after one minute, according to court documents. The explosion damaged the front window and porch of the building. An employee called police after noticing the damage the next morning.
Police used surveillance footage and the city of Newark’s automatic license plate readers to identify the getaway vehicle as a maroon Toyota Highlander owned by Gulick’s father, according to court documents.
"Law enforcement also identified Gulick through social media postings attributed to him," Reeves said.
An Instagram account belonging to Gulick contains several anti-abortion memes and the phrase “Deus Vult,” as well as imagery associated with the alt-right movement, court documents indicate.
Gulick was arrested by the FBI on Jan. 4 and charged with maliciously damaging a building used in interstate commerce through the use of fire or destructive device, intentionally damaging a facility that provides reproductive health services, and possession of an unregistered destructive device under the National Firearms Act.
If convicted, he faces a statutory minimum of five years and a maximum of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
This case is being investigated by the FBI with assistance from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Newark Police Department, University of Delaware Police, Delaware State Police, Delaware State Fire Marshal’s Office and New Castle County Police Department.