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Lab tests could offer clues in Planned Parenthood arson

Planned Parenthood offices in Thousand Oaks

Investigators say a fire that erupted at Planned Parenthood offices in Thousand Oaks on Wednesday night was the work of an arsonist.

(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

A large stone and samples of an accelerant used to set fire to a Planned Parenthood facility in Thousand Oaks have been sent to a laboratory for testing, authorities said.

No arrests have been made in the arson, but detectives expect the test results will offer information on the type of accelerant used and possibly clues about the arsonist, said Capt. John Reilly of the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department.

But the investigation, he said, would take some time.

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Detectives have reviewed surveillance video footage from the facility and say the arsonist’s face was concealed with an item of clothing. Reilly said detectives are not ready to release video and photographs of the arsonist to the public.

Authorities believe the arsonist smashed a window late Wednesday at the West Hillcrest Drive facility, splashed gasoline inside the clinic and then ignited it.

The small fire was extinguished quickly because of a sprinkler system.

This is the second attack on the facility since the end of August, when someone threw a rock at a window, cracking it, Reilly said. No suspects were identified in that incident.

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The attack on the facility comes in the midst of a heated debate over Planned Parenthood after an undercover video surfaced this summer that allegedly shows executives talking about recovering fetal tissue from abortions for research. Politicians have warned that the national conversation could spark attacks against facilities and clinics.

Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood, said at a House hearing this week that the organization did not break the law. In a statement issued after the fire, Planned Parenthood condemned the attack.

“These acts of violence are unacceptable and they will not be successful,” the organization said. “These criminals will never break our resolve to provide the compassionate care that our patients need and deserve.”

California Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris said she was deeply troubled by the Planned Parenthood fire and has offered to assist with the investigation.

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“This incident is a serious threat to our public safety,” she said in a statement Friday. “Patients and health providers have the right to receive care and provide services in a safe environment. Violence should never serve as a means to express a difference in opinion, no matter what side of an issue you stand on.”

Due to recent debate and the attacks, deputies are patrolling the neighborhood and facility more frequently.

For breaking news in California, follow VeronicaRochaLA on Twitter.

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