22-year-old Irvine man pleads guilty in Costa Mesa Planned Parenthood firebombing

Burned location outside the Costa Mesa Planned Parenthood clinic.
An Irvine man pleaded guilty Thursday for his role in the March 2022 firebombing of a Costa Mesa Planned Parenthood clinic.
(U.S. Department of Justice)

A 22-year-old Irvine man pleaded guilty Thursday for his part in the firebombing of a Planned Parenthood clinic in Costa Mesa nearly two years ago.

Tibet Ergul acknowledged his participation in the firebombing of the clinic with a Molotov cocktail March 13, 2022, pleading guilty to conspiracy to damage an energy facility and intentional damage to a reproductive health services facility.

Scheduled for a May 30 sentencing, Ergul faces between five and six and a half years in prison with three years of supervised release and $1,000 in restitution.

The Planned Parenthood clinic in Costa Mesa.
The Planned Parenthood clinic in Costa Mesa, where a firebombing took place on the night of March 13, 2022.
(File Photo)

Co-defendant Chance Brannon, 24, of San Juan Capistrano, pleaded guilty Nov. 30 to conspiracy, malicious destruction of property by fire and explosive, possession of an unauthorized destructive device and intentional damage to a reproductive health services facility. The former Camp Pendleton-based Marine was scheduled to be sentenced April 15.

A second co-defendant, Xavier Batten, 21, of Brooksville, Fla., pleaded guilty in January to possession of a destructive device and was scheduled to be sentenced May 15.

Batten helped and conspired with Brannon to firebomb the clinic with a Molotov cocktail from February through March 13, 2022, according to his plea agreement.

Brannon and Ergul put together the Molotov cocktail about March 12, 2022, in Ergul’s garage, prosecutors said. Batten coached Brannon how to construct the fiery device, prosecutors said.

Brannon and Ergul ignited the device the following day and hurled it at the clinic’s entrance, sparking a fire, prosecutors said.

Afterward, Ergul “bragged” to a friend and added he “wished he could have recorded the ignition,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Kathrynne Seiden said at Thursday’s hearing.

After the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in June 2022 striking down abortion rights, Brannon and Ergul planned another firebombing of a clinic but backed out at the last moment when they saw law enforcement, Seiden said.

They also “discussed starting a race war by attacking an electrical substation with the goal of damaging the substation and disrupting the functioning of the power grid in Orange County,” prosecutors said.

The offer of a reward of up to $25,000 in the March 2022 Molotov cocktail attack on the healthcare facility on Nutmeg Place led to Wednesday morning’s arrest of two local men.

June 14, 2023

In March 2023, Ergul identified a target and suggested going at 3 a.m. to a neighboring structure and hurling the Molotov cocktail at the substation, Seiden said.

Brannon had a thumb drive that looked like a dog tag necklace bearing the U.S. Marine Corps motto, “Semper Fidelis,” which contained a file with a “plan and gear list for targeting a Southern California Edison substation,” prosecutors said.

It also contained recordings of a 2019 mosque shooting in Christchurch, New Zealand, in which a white supremacist murdered 51 people and injured 40 others, prosecutors maintained.

The duo were also accused of discussing and researching “how to attack the parking lot or electrical room of Dodger Stadium on a night celebrating LGBTQ pride,” prosecutors said. They were arrested two days before Pride Night at the stadium, Seiden said.

Brannon and Ergul were both also charged with one count of possession of an unregistered destructive device and one misdemeanor count of intentional damage to a reproductive health services facility, a violation of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, prosecutors said.

Brannon also agreed to pay about $1,000 in restitution for damage to the building.

One official with Planned Parenthood of Orange & San Bernardino Counties said Thursday it was fortunate no one was harmed during the firebombing, which took place at around 1 a.m. on a Sunday, hours before the clinic opened for business.

“It was scary,” Nichole Ramirez, senior vice president of communications, recalled. “It is clear the intent of these folks was to intimidate.”

The incident caused the clinic, located on Nutmeg Place off Costa Mesa’s Harbor Boulevard, to delay its opening by about two hours. During that time, staff acted swiftly to reschedule as many as 30 appointments.

“Luckily, we were able to find available slots for those 30 patients at other health centers, and we were able to open roughly two hours later,” Ramirez said.

Officials also worked closely with the FBI, as well as the Costa Mesa Police Department to identify suspects captured by an on-site surveillance system that had recently been upgraded.

Ramirez said Planned Parenthood officials and staff are grateful to the agencies that responded and ultimately brought the bombing suspects to justice. She said she hopes it sends a strong message.

“You’re not going to intimidate our staff, patients and supporters,” she said. “We’re not going to stand for it.”

Daily Pilot reporter Sara Cardine contributed to this report.