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Authorities: Fire at pro-life center deliberately set

KOB.com Web Staff
November 24, 2016 06:32 AM

A Wednesday morning fire at Project Defending Life at 625 San Mateo Boulevard NE near Marquette Avenue was deliberately set, according to an FBI spokesperson. 

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Albuquerque Fire Department officials say fire crews responded to a report of smoke at the facility at 12:32 a.m. Wednesday. Crews arrived within minutes and extinguished a small fire inside the building. No injuries were reported.

According to a statement from Students For Life, "Project Defending Life is closed until further notice yet the pro-life community is stepping up to make sure sidewalk counselors are available and a mobile pregnancy center unit can be placed near Planned Parenthood."

AFD turned over the investigation to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, who determined later Wednesday that the fire was deliberately set.

"I just don't understand the intentional act behind harming our organization, and now taking away a resource that has been helping women right now find housing and jobs," said Dominique Davis, director of client services at the center.

The FBI and Albuquerque Fire Department are asking for the public's help in finding the person or persons responsible for setting several fires that damaged the office  and chapel of the building.

Later Wednesday evening, the FBI released images of a white vehicle on the north side the building when the fire started. Video shows a gap from when the vehicle stops and when the driver re-enters.

The FBI does not consider the driver to be a suspect at the moment, but investigators wanted to speak to him or her as a potential witness.

That driver, a volunteer with the group, contacted KOB and said it was her in the video. She said she has already spoken with investigators to inform them she was there.

KOB will not reveal her identity for her safety.

The woman said when people sign up with Project Defending Life, they are given an access code to visit the chapel anytime. She said she stopped by around 11 p.m. Tuesday night to pray.

“The only thing I noticed was the streetlights were out, which is strange. I noticed that when I first arrived because it was so dark, but that was the only thing,” the woman said. “I mean, I even check the peephole before I leave to make sure that there's nobody walking just for my safety and there wasn't anybody.”

She found out about the fire through Facebook after it happened, she said.

“I am praying for the people that did this, and it's sad,” she said. “But I hope that there can be hope from this because this is a great organization trying to help people.”

Anyone with information about these fires or who recalls seeing anything suspicious in the area at the time of the fires is asked to call the FBI (24 hours) at 505-889-1300.

Tips also can be submitted online at tips.fbi.gov.

Officials do not believe at this time that the Project Defending Life fire and the fire that engulfed The Carlisle condominium complex at Central Avenue and Carlisle Boulevard later Wednesday morning are connected.

Credits

KOB.com Web Staff

Copyright 2016 KOB-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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