An 18-year-old has been arrested and charged for the attempted bombing of a Delaware Planned Parenthood. Samuel James Gulick faces one count of maliciously damaging a building used in interstate commerce through the use of fire or destructive device; one count of intentionally damaging a facility that provides reproductive-health services; and one count of possession of an unregistered destructive device under the National Firearms Act, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Delaware.
Surveillance footage captured around 2:16 a.m. on Friday morning shows a man, later identified as Gulick, standing on the porch of a Planned Parenthood facility in Newark, Delaware. Gulick allegedly spray-painted the words “Deus Vult” — a rallying cry from the Crusades, which translates to “God wills it” and has lately been adopted by the alt-right — on the side of the building in bright red. According to prosecutors, Gulick then stepped back, lit what investigators believe was a Molotov cocktail, and threw it at the window. When a Planned Parenthood employee showed up the following morning, she found the building graffitied, and fire damage to the broken front window and the porch.
Gulick reportedly fled when the device exploded, with security and traffic cameras showing a man driving away from the scene in a maroon Toyota Highlander. Authorities ran a record check on the license-plate number pulled from the images, and traced the vehicle to Gulick’s Middletown, Delaware, address. A subsequent inventory of his social-media activity turned up “posts containing the phrase ‘Deus Vult,’” according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, as well as anti-abortion content. Screenshots included in the court documents suggest Gulick chose Pepe the Frog — another image adopted by the alt-right — as his Instagram icon, and that he had a penchant for sharing baseless infographics on abortion-related “deaths.”
The FBI arrested Gulick “without incident” on Saturday. He was charged on Tuesday, and could face between 5 and 20 years in prison, plus a $250,000 fine, if convicted on the most serious charge (maliciously damaging a health-care center) alone.
According to its website, however, this particular Planned Parenthood doesn’t even provide abortions — it does offer abortion referrals, among many other reproductive-health-related services, but that’s it. Still, since Donald Trump’s election, attacks on abortion providers have continued to rise year over year. From 2016 to 2017, according to the National Abortion Federation, violent acts against abortion clinics more than doubled: 2017 charted 1,081 incidents, the highest number the group had ever recorded up to that point. But in 2018, that figure jumped to 1,369 reported violent acts, including stalking, trespassing, assault and battery, and burglary. That the escalation has occurred in tandem with increasingly extreme rhetoric on the right — like Trump riling up his supporters with imagery of a woman and a doctor deciding to “execute” her baby — is no coincidence.
“This is an act of domestic terrorism and a blatant attack on reproductive health,” Ruth Lytle-Barnaby, chief executive of Planned Parenthood of Delaware, told the New York Times. “Unfortunately, I feel like we are in a time and an administration that emboldens people to do things and this is one of the kinds of things that has been happening around the country.”