Police officials have finally identified a suspect over a year after consistent attacks on a Planned Parenthood health center in Knoxville, Tennessee. A civil complaint names Mark Thomas Reno, who is now deceased, as responsible for attacks many once thought were related to construction, Tennessee Lookout reported.
Reno allegedly opened fire into the door of a Planned Parenthood clinic under construction two weeks after traveling to the U.S. Capitol to participate in the Jan. 6 insurrection. Reno was also connected to another incident at the same clinic, during which he burned the clinic down on Dec. 31, 2021. While initial speculations thought that incident was accidental, it was later ruled an arson.
Local outlets also noted that, after firing at the clinic in late January, Reno allegedly returned to the clinic on April 26, 2021, with intentions of setting fire to it.
“Reno made several statements about the destruction of the Center and a plan to burn the Center when reconstruction begins,” court records said. Reno allegedly made his intentions clear to a plain-clothed fire department investigator, Knoxville News Sentinel reported. At the time, the Knoxville Center for Reproductive Health facility was the only one performing abortions in Knoxville.
He then succeeded in attacking and burning the clinic months later. Luckily, during both incidents of violence, the clinic was closed for renovation. The fire was so “heavy” that by the time the Knoxville fire department crew reached the site, flames were coming out of the roof, resulting in the entire building being damaged, Daily Kos reported.
According to the US Attorney’s Office, Reno was arrested on July 18 in connection to a shooting at a federal building in Knoxville on July 3. A week later, he was indicted by a federal grand jury on one count of destruction of property.
He was released from custody on Aug. 14 due to health reasons. He died the next day, on Aug. 15, at the Laurel County Correctional Center in Kentucky while awaiting trial for allegedly shooting at a federal office building in Knoxville, WATE reported. At the time of his arrest, his connection to the violence against the reproductive health clinic was not made public.
Investigators used surveillance video and witness statements to identify Reno’s car. According to court documents, during a search of his vehicle, they found a red gasoline container and seven matchbooks. According to WSMV, a search of his cellphone also found that Reno sent a news article to someone about the arson incident with the message, “we were busy in THE CULT OF JESUS.”
While Ashley Coffield, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Tennessee and North Mississippi, thanked federal law enforcement agencies and the Knoxville Fire Department for their work investigating the incidents on Monday, she also noted that this violent rhetoric is enabled by elected officials targeting reproductive health care.
“The man who was arrested in this case is not the only one who holds responsibility,” Coffield said in a statement Monday. “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. Fires need fuel, and politicians are all too eager to provide it.”
Abortion rights, climate change, and gun safety are all on the ballot this fall, and there are literally thousands of ways to get involved in turning out voters. Click here to find a federal, state, or local campaign from our GOTV feed at Mobilize and sign up for a volunteer shift to help Democrats and progressives win.
Donate $5 to help progressive groups register, educate, and mobilize voters in Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Wisconsin.
Related Story: ‘Huge loss for the community’: Police say Planned Parenthood building fire was intentional