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Home / firebombing

2 men charged with firebombing Costa Mesa Planned Parenthood

Two Orange County men, including a U.S. Marine stationed at Camp Pendleton, were arrested Wednesday on federal charges of firebombing a Planned Parenthood clinic in Costa Mesa last year.

Agents with the FBI and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service arrested Tibet Ergul, 21, of Irvine, and Chance Brannon, 23, of San Juan Capistrano, who is an active-duty Marine.

The two made their initial appearance in federal court in Santa Ana on Wednesday afternoon. Ergul’s bond hearing was postponed until Friday afternoon while U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Douglas McCormick denied bail for Brannon.

They are accused of hurling a Molotov cocktail at the entrance of the Planned Parenthood at 1520 Nutmeg Place in the early hours of March 13, 2022, according to an affidavit from FBI Special Agent Jennifer Hirsch. About two hours later, the two returned to the clinic, she added.

The clinic “was forced to close and cancel dozens of appointments,” Hirsch said. Clinic employees told investigators about 30 appointments had to be rescheduled.

A day after the attack, Ergul “texted an acquaintance, taking credit for the fire and noting that he wished he ‘could’ve recorded the combustion,'” Hirsch said.

Ergul sent a photograph to an “acquaintance” showing “his gloved hand holding the Molotov cocktail from inside Brannon’s car,” Hirsch said.

Surveillance video from the clinic shows the two approach the building about 12:55 a.m., Hirsch said. They wore hooded sweatshirts and masks, Hirsch said.

The estimated damage to the building was about $1,050, Hirsch said.

In January, the FBI offered a reward of up to $25,000 for information leading to an arrest of suspects, prompting a call from a witness who called the FBI in April, Hirsch said.

The witness, who was a friend of the suspects in high school, said Ergul sent text messages admitting his involvement in the bombing, Hirsch alleged.

According to Hirsch, the text message read, “Boom (fire emoji)” at “1500 Blk nutmeg plaza… Costa Mesa health center/Planned Parenthood clinic.”

The FBI agent also said that Ergul was arrested Oct. 21, 2022, in Tempe, Arizona, on suspicion of aggravated assault, unlawful imprisonment and criminal damage after “punching his roommate in the nose and breaking the doorknob so she could not leave their shared apartment.”

U.S. Attorney Martin Estrada called the alleged firebombing a “brazen attack” on a clinic that “provides critical health care services to thousands of people in Orange County. While it is fortunate that no one was physically harmed and responders were able to prevent the clinic from being destroyed, the defendants’ violent actions are entirely unacceptable.”

Brannon’s attorney, Kate Corrigan, told McCormick she found it “a little ironic” that officials were citing Brannon’s military training as a reason for considering him as “dangerous.” She indicated he specialized as a Farsi language expert.

Corrigan said her client would surrender his passport, could be monitored with a GPS device and had strong local family ties with the means to pay for his bond. Brannon has no prior criminal history, she added.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Kathrynne Seiden told McCormick that Brannon crossed over into Mexico on foot without notifying Camp Pendleton officials as required. She also said his biological father owns an online betting company in Costa Rica that has been investigated for money laundering, Seiden said.

Corrigan said Brannon’s parents divorced “two decades ago” and that his father “abandoned the family years ago … and there’s no indication I’ve heard there’s any communication or financial ties.”

Seiden argued that Brannon “has a very serious motivation” to flee and has the means to do it. And despite being in the military he still “felt emboldened” to commit “an act of domestic terrorism,” Seiden argued.

Agents seized silencers, a short-barrel rifle and weapons that are banned, Seiden said. Some of the weapons were banned by state laws, she added.

The agents also found “neo Nazi” paraphernalia in his room as well as a drawing of a service member shooting someone who is Jewish holding money with the caption, “Thank you for keeping America pure,” Seiden said.

There were also writings in his room that included a declaration of “an unbelievable desire to murder journalists,” Seiden alleged.

Corrigan noted that the government was alleging her client possessed the material but did not create it. She also said it was irrelevant to the alleged crime.

“I can see if it was a crime against a synagogue,” Corrigan said.

McCormick said Brannon is accused of “very serious allegations” and added he was “gravely concerned” not just by the written material found in the room, but also the seizure of guns.

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