Updated: April 2, 2012, 3:57 PM
A small, homemade bomb exploded outside a Planned Parenthood office in Wisconsin on Sunday night, prompting a federal investigation and the swift condemnation of violence by a Republican presidential candidate ahead of the state’s primary on Tuesday.
The attack took place at about 7:30 p.m. local time in Wisconsin, causing a small amount of damage to the building in the town of Grand Chute, about 30 miles southwest of Green Bay. No one was injured.
Leonard Peace, a spokesman with the FBI in Milwaukee, told TPM on Monday that the agency had joined the criminal investigation and was helping the town’s police figure out exactly what type of device was used and who put it there.
“It looks to be something more incendiary than something that was explosive,” Peace said. “It looks like it caused fire damage, so we’re trying to figure out exactly what was this device that was left there.”
The Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division also joined the investigation, a spokeswoman told TPM. The civil rights portion of the probe will focus on a law that makes it illegal to damage or destroy the property of a facility because it provides abortion services.
The explosion happened just two days before Wisconsin goes to the polls in the Republican presidential primary. Before motives were known or a suspect identified, presidential contender and vocal Planned Parenthood critic Rick Santorum moved quickly to condemn the attack.
“Violence is never the answer,” the former Pennsylvania senator said in a written statement sent to TPM. “While we can and should work to defund Planned Parenthood and push back against government mandates that force Americans and religious institution to violate their faith, violence against our fellow citizens has no place in a freedom-loving America.”
The president of Planned Parenthood Wisconsin, Teri Huyck, vowed that the office would quickly reopen after the attack.
“There was minimal damage to one of the exam rooms. No staff or patients were injured or present,” Huyck said in a statement. “The health center will reopen tomorrow. Our primary concern today — as always — is our patients, staff and volunteers.”
Grand Chute Police Chief Greg Peterson told the Appleton Post-Crescent he wasn’t aware of any prior threats to the office. He described the device as using a plastic bottle and “included agents of an incendiary quality.”
Officials with the Grand Chute Police Department and the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives did not return phone calls for comment.
Evan McMorris-Santoro and Ryan J. Reilly contributed.
Nick Martin is an associate editor at TPM in New York City. He came to the site in 2011 as a reporter for TPMMuckraker. Previously, he worked in Arizona, first as a staff reporter for a local newspaper and later as a freelance journalist. He also ran the news blog Heat City. Contact him: nick [at] talkingpointsmemo.com