.- The âtepidâ and ârudeâ police response to a firebomb attack on a pro-life demonstrator outside a Kalispell, Montana abortion clinic merits disciplinary action, the head of a Catholic legal group said.
Poor police response to these types of incidents could âlegitimizeâ the tactic, warned Tom Brejcha, president and chief counsel of the Chicago-based Thomas More Society.
âThere has to be an utter condemnation of the use of violent tactics from both sides of the abortion debate. Any kind of coddling, or treating it as a normal thing would only provoke violent actions,â Brejcha told CNA on March 21.
Participants in the local 40 Days for Life prayer vigil were on the sidewalk near the All Family Health Care abortion center on March 17 around 6:15 p.m. An unidentified assailant threw a homemade incendiary device at an elderly woman, although it landed behind her.
The device, a water bottle filled with a flammable liquid, made a loud popping noise like a big firecracker and burst into flame.
Brejcha criticized the initial police reaction as âtepidâ and âoutrageous.â
âThe officer responding to the 911 call took half an hour to get to the scene. He was very brusque and rude. When the 77-year-old lady held out her hand to greet him, he just ignored her and walked right past her,â Brejcha said.
When asked if he was going to have the residue collected as evidence, he said there wouldnât be any fingerprints and he âjust called the garbage folks to collect the debris.â
When the coordinator of the 40 Days event called the desk sergeant to complain about the officerâs ârather nonchalant responseâ to a âserious bombing incident,â he continued, the desk officer âpretty much said what the police officer said.â
According to Brejcha, the officer remarked that âit was reasonable that people would react this way when youâre out there protesting on a public sidewalk.â
âOf course, those reactions are just outrageous. This was a serious incident, a violent attack with a firebomb that exploded on impact and could have caused very serious impact to this lady.â
He added that those involved have received many calls from Kalispell police officers and others in the area, disagreeing âstronglyâ with the officersâ response.
âThe reaction of these police officers should not be taken as typical,â he said.
The group intends to pursue disciplinary charges against the two officers.
âWeâre not looking for a pound of flesh or anything, but itâs a very serious matter when law enforcement is unresponsive as they were in this case.â
Mary Anne Hofmann, the attacked woman, was âvery startledâ but is âa rather unflappable person,â Brejcha reported. âSheâs going to keep on doing what she was doing.â
âThere was another bombing at a Target store close to the same time. The two incidents may be related,â Brejcha surmised.
There was also an eyewitness of the attack on the woman who could help the investigation. He was not associated with the pro-life group.
Brejcha said there had been no incidents at this clinic other than a water balloon attack. He does know of other menacing incidents towards pro-life demonstrators at other clinics, but nothing involving a firebomb-like device.
The Thomas More Society is in contact with the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms about the Kalispell case.
Brejcha said that the FBI and the ATF have been âvery active in policing the activity of pro-lifers at abortion sites.â
âWe expect them to be equally aggressive in this matter.â