Columbia Man Charged with Arson at Planned Parenthood Clinic
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – A Columbia, Mo., man was charged in federal court today with the arson at the Columbia Health Center (operated by Planned Parenthood Great Plains) on Feb. 10, 2019.
Wesley Brian Kaster, 42, was charged in a criminal complaint filed in the U.S. District Court in Jefferson City, Mo., with one count of maliciously damaging a building, owned by an organization the receives federal financial assistance, by means of fire or an explosive. Kaster, who was arrested on Saturday, March 2, 2019, remains in federal custody pending a detention hearing on Thursday, March 7, 2019.
According to an affidavit filed in support of today’s federal criminal complaint, surveillance video from Planned Parenthood and from neighboring businesses recorded Kaster in the early morning hours of Feb. 10, 2019. He parked his Toyota Sienna minivan (missing the right front passenger-side hubcap) nearby at about 2:30 a.m. and carried a seemingly heavy white bucket to the north exterior door of the Planned Parenthood building. Kaster broke the front door, the affidavit says, placed the bucket inside the building, and threw a Molotov cocktail-type device inside the building. Kaster remained standing on the sidewalk outside the door, watching the inside of the building. Kaster then allegedly entered the building through the broken door. No explosion or fire was visible at this time.
At approximately 2:52 a.m., the affidavit says, two unidentified pedestrians approached and Kaster fled east across Providence Road. Kaster walked to where his vehicle was parked and drove away. At this time, there was no discernable smoke or active fire at the Planned Parenthood building.
Kaster returned at about 4 a.m., according to the affidavit. Surveillance video recorded Kaster walking to the Planned Parenthood door with what the affidavit describes as “an undiscernible item in his left hand.” At 4:03 a.m., smoke is visible billowing from the broken glass door of the Planned Parenthood building. Kaster fled north along the west side of Providence Road, and west along 4th Avenue, out of view.
The Columbia Fire Department received the fire alarm at the Planned Parenthood building at approximately 4:05 a.m. Firefighters observed that the north exterior door of the building, which was constructed of glass inside a frame, had been shattered and an accelerant fueled the fire that was set inside. The fire was fully extinguished by a fire sprinkler system before firefighters arrived, and only moderate fire damage was observed to the room and its contents. Among the evidence collected at the scene by investigators were two five-gallon buckets that had contained gasoline, one inside of the other, found lying on the floor just inside the broken doorway. Investigators also recovered the remains of a Molotov cocktail.
Investigators identified 55 Toyota Sienna minivans registered by Columbia residents, one of which was registered by Kaster. Investigators also received records from Lowe’s for a list of all recent purchases of five-gallon buckets from area stores in 2019, which included a purchase by Kaster. Surveillance videos related to that purchase, according to the affidavit, clearly captured Kaster’s face and physical features.
Investigators contacted Kaster’s employer, a light manufacturing business in Jefferson City, where he works as a floor supervisor in the welding shop. According to the affidavit, Kaster had acquired a pair of Ansell HyFlex gloves, which are cut and abrasion resistant, which were the same make, model, color and size gloves recovered from the Planned Parenthood building.
Investigators searched social media accounts connected to Kaster. On Oct. 25, 2015, a picture was posted to the Facebook page of Kaster’s wife depicting a handgun and the words, “Guns Don’t Kill People, Planned Parenthood Kills People.”
Multiple federal search warrants were executed on Saturday, March 2, 2019. Investigators searched Kaster’s minivan a few minutes after he left his workplace that morning and took Kaster to obtain hair specimens. Investigators searched Kaster’s residence, the affidavit says, where numerous items of evidence were collected that definitively tied Kaster to the crime scene at Planned Parenthood. Based on these facts, Kaster was arrested at 11:07 a.m.
The charge contained in this complaint is simply an accusation, and not evidence of guilt. Evidence supporting the charge must be presented to a federal trial jury, whose duty is to determine guilt or innocence.
This case is being prosecuted by Supervisory Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael S. Oliver. It was investigated by the FBI.