The FBI is investigating whether a hate crime occurred when a suspected arsonist set fire to a pro-life pregnancy center on Wednesday morning in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
FBI spokesman Frank Fisher told KRQE News that they are asking the public for help to identify the person who set several fires inside Project Defending Life’s Albuquerque office. He said someone set the fires deliberately, KOB 4 reports.
“Hate crime could be on the table, depending on what we find,” Fisher said.
The FBI released a video and images of a white car and its driver who parked near the office on Wednesday around the time when the fires were started.
However, the driver later identified herself as a pro-life volunteer who went to the chapel to pray and then left before the incident occurred, according to KOB 4. The volunteer said she was there around 11 p.m., and authorities estimate that someone started the fires around 12:32 a.m.
The Catholic-based pro-life organization is closed, and leaders said they are not sure when it will reopen. The building on San Mateo Boulevard NE sustained extensive damage from the fires. It is located across the street from a Planned Parenthood abortion facility. Another late-term abortion facility is about four miles away.
Dominique Davis, director of client services for Project Defending Life, told LifeNews that they do not know the full extent of the damage yet. She said they plan to meet with their insurance agent next week, but she estimated that the fire caused roughly several hundred thousand dollars worth of damage.
“While this intentional evil act was meant to scare us and inhibit us from doing our work, those who committed this crime can be assured it has not,” Davis said. “While our building may be finished, we are not, and we will find another place to set up.”
Davis said Sidewalk Advocates for Life Albuquerque, which works closely with them, also stored materials in their office, and most of them were destroyed in the blaze.
Keep up with the latest pro-life news and information on Twitter. Follow @LifeNewsHQ
She told LifeNews:
Right now our biggest needs will be monetary as we begin a plan to rebuild our center. The sooner we can do it the better! We are directly located across from a Planned Parent Surgical [abortion] Center. With the help of side walk counselors we have saved hundreds of baby and helped those moms in significant ways, parenting classes, housing, employments, sobriety, and leave domestic violence. These women literally walk from Planned Parenthood to our center for help when they decide to choose life for their baby. Until we can operate inside that building we will be located farther away which will make it difficult for the women we serve.
In a statement online, she also thanked the firefighters and authorities for investigating the matter, as well as the many people who have responded with support.
“The magnitude of helping hands and kind words show how much our community really cares and that is the most meaningful of it all,” Davis added.
Project Defending Life lists its current needs on its website:
Monetary Donations to begin rebuilding. A small and secure storage unit. New signs for Sidewalk Advocates. A small office space near PDL to continue our operations. CareNet Pregnancy Center of Albuquerque has kindly offered us space and their Medical Mobile Unit until everything can be resolved. While we are considering this option, we hope something closer to home will be opened to us also. This Saturday at 10am, Sidewalks Advocate for Life-ABQ is hosting a Prayer Rally in front of PDL. We invite all of you to come and join us!
Donations to support the pro-life organization may be made online here.
Students for Life, which works closely with the pro-life group, said pro-lifers are stepping up to make sure sidewalk counselors and a mobile pregnancy center unit are available for pregnant women who are seeking help.
Anyone with information about the incident or suspicious activity in the area at the time of the fires is asked to call the FBI at 505-889-1300.