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VOL. 46 | NO. 43 | Friday, October 28, 2022

Authorities: Suspect in abortion clinic fire died in August

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NASHVILLE (AP) — A man accused of intentionally setting fire to a Tennessee Planned Parenthood clinic and of firing shots later at a federal courthouse died months ago, officials announced Monday in disclosing both the man's death and the allegations.

Federal court documents indicate that the man, Mark Thomas Reno, 64, died on Aug. 15. Yet many of the documents in his case were sealed until this week, including records showing he had been arrested in connection with the Planned Parenthood arson fire.

"The government's investigation has revealed that (Reno) engaged in a series of violent acts of property destruction in Knoxville since early 2021," a newly unsealed complaint stated.

The complaint states that Reno fired a shotgun at the clinic's doors in early 2021, shattering glass and leaving holes in the reception area. Reno then set the clinic ablaze in December 2021, the document says.

The building was unoccupied during the fire but had to be closed for months to undergo an $2.2 million renovation.

Other court documents show that the FBI began surveillance of Reno in April of this year after he told an undercover agent he belonged to a group with a mission to resist actions opposed to Catholic orthodoxy. The agent was secretly recording Reno, who said that his group had "plenty of targets," according to the documents.

Reno also told the undercover agent that he was at the U.S. Capitol riot in January 2021. The agent said authorities examined footage from the day and saw he was present but that there was no evidence he broke any laws.

By July, Reno was accused of firing at a federal building in Knoxville and damaging three windows, according to the court documents.

Court documents show that Reno had been detained since July but had been temporarily released to receive medical treatment in August. The cause of death was not immediately disclosed.

"The man who was arrested in this case is not the only one who holds responsibility," said — Ashley Coffield, CEO of Planned Parenthood of Tennessee and North Mississippi, in a statement. "When politicians use hateful rhetoric against abortion providers and support extreme laws, like the total abortion ban we have in Tennessee, it shouldn't surprise us that some people believe real-world violence is justified."

Coffield and others have criticized Republican Gov. Bill Lee of Tennessee for not condemning the attack on Planned Parenthood's clinic. Over the summer, the governor instead condemned vandalism at a crisis pregnancy center that aims to dissuade people from getting an abortion.

Tennessee is among the several states that had enacted so-called trigger laws banning almost all abortions once the U.S. Supreme Court revoked the constitutional right to the procedure. Under the law, Planned Parenthood and other health clinics across the state have stopped providing abortions.

A spokesperson for U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Tennessee said their office would have a statement Tuesday.

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