The CEO of a pro-life pregnancy center severely damaged in an activist firebombing earlier this year is accusing police in upstate New York of withholding evidence of the crime.
Rev. Jim Harden, CEO of CompassCare, which saw its medical office in Amherst, just outside Buffalo, attacked on June 7, released a statement Tuesday alleging police have failed to return video footage of the attack.
In response, attorneys for CompassCare filed a special proceeding in the Supreme Court of New York in Erie County to compel the Amherst Police Department to return the footage, according to the statement from CompassCare.
Following the attack in June, CompassCare released the footage to police after the organization could not make a copy of the original video “due to catastrophic damage” from the firebombing.
Since then, the organization said police denied several requests to view the footage.
No public reports have been issued, nor have any arrests been made since the bombing.
Saying, “Our patience with the Amherst Police and FBI to make an arrest is at an end,” Harden accused police of withholding criminal evidence.
“The Amherst Police are withholding evidence, barring CompassCare and its attorneys from taking appropriate legal action that justice may be done and the violence can stop,” he said.
According to CompassCare, police failed to return the footage after an attorney sent a letter requesting the property by Aug. 19.
When an attorney reached out to Amherst Town Attorney Stanley Sliwa earlier this month, CompassCare said Sliwa “relayed the Amherst Police department’s obstinance.”
Sliwa, who represents the Town of Amherst and the Amherst police, told a local Buffalo-area news outlet the reason they have not returned the footage is that “we’re still investigating it.
“We don’t want to disseminate the tape to anyone at this time because we don’t want it to get out, what we’re doing and who we’re looking at,” Sliwa told ABC affiliate WKBW.
When asked why police hadn’t returned the footage, Silwa told The Epoch Times he is concerned the information could provoke more violence. Silwa vowed that the video could be released once the investigation is complete.
“You’re aware of all the nut jobs out there with guns and AK-47s, bombing and killing people because they have certain political views,” Sliwa was quoted as saying.
The Christian Post’s request for comment from Sliwa and APD was not returned as of Friday afternoon.
Since the U.S. Supreme Court overturnedRoe v. Wade in June, dozens of attacks have targeted pregnancy centers, churches and other pro-life organizations. But Harden points out a single arrest has yet to be made in those attacks.
By contrast, Harden added, a suspect was arrested in just four days in an FBI investigation into an attack on a Planned Parenthood facility in Michigan.
“If four days are enough for federal law enforcement to arrest a perpetrator of attempted arson against a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic, 105 days ought to have been enough to locate arsonists causing a half-million dollars in damage to CompassCare’s pro-life medical office in Buffalo,” said Harden.
Describing CompassCare as “a Christ-centered agency dedicated to empowering women to erase the need for abortion by transforming their fear into confidence because everyone is made in the image of God,” Harden told CP in August that he credits the swift reopening of the facility to the “generosity of the people of God.”
While the firebombing undoubtedly caused CompassCare hardship, Harden said it opened up new opportunities for growth.
“We’re able to engage … additional partners to help us kind of realize our plans that we’ve been developing since 2018,” he said, pointing to the addition of a global telehealth partner called Let’s Talk Interactive operating in 79 countries and 50 states.
Reporting by The Christian Post.