A Michigan man described as a bookworm by relatives has wandered the Midwest since August, looking for a medical clinic to attack with his 2004 Saturn compact car, authorities said.
It was dawn Monday when David Robert McMenemy approached Edgerton Women’s Health Center in Davenport, which he mistakenly believed provided abortions.
He entered the center’s driveway off East Rusholme Street and then took a few moments to turn and configure the car to face straight into the lobby, Davenport Fire Marshal Mike Hayman said.
The 45-year-old crashed the Saturn into the central lobby, coming to rest at the counter. When the car did not immediately burst into flames as he may have expected, police said he took gasoline that he had poured into a Gatorade bottle and spread it over the interior. “I lit it,” McMenemy told investigators, and he exited the structure to surrender himself to startled Davenport firefighters.
“He came out and said to our guys, ‘There’s no one in the vehicle, and that’s my car. I did it,’ ” Hayman related. “Our commander on the scene was very surprised, and he took McMenemy to a squad car and turned him over to police.”
The health center would have been destroyed if its sprinkler system hadn’t activated, police reported. Damage estimates were not available late Tuesday.
McMenemy, listed at 6-foot-5 and 270 pounds, remains in the Scott County Jail.
He made a preliminary appearance in court on Tuesday morning, and the judge decided not to set bail because the resident of Wayne County, Mich., is considered a flight risk and is likely to reoffend, Scott County Attorney Bill Davis said, adding that McMenemy has no apparent ties to Davenport.
McMenemy has had no criminal record for 10 years or more, at least not in Michigan, according to a clerk in the criminal division of the Wayne County Clerk’s office in Detroit. He also has no prior conviction in Iowa, according to www.iowacourts.state.ia.us.
He faces a charge of second-degree arson because first-degree arson requires that the building be occupied. There are no additional charges that are appropriate, including terrorism, Davis said, but he noted the case could be taken up by federal authorities.
McMenemy is described as “laid back” and a “bookworm,” a woman who identified herself as his niece in Sterling Heights, Mich., told Lourdes Duarte, a reporter for Fox 2 News in Detroit. The niece described McMenemy as her favorite uncle and noted this is not normal behavior for him.
He took his car and left the Detroit suburbs some months ago and the family hasn’t seen him since, Duarte said she was told.
The Edgerton facility started in 1972 as Maternal Health Center in Bettendorf and moved to the Davenport location in 2002. It does not perform abortions and also does not provide abortion referrals, according to Tom Fedje, facility president. It does advise low-income and underprivileged pregnant women on various options available to them.
The incident is being monitored by Planned Parenthood of Greater Iowa, owner of the Bettendorf clinic that does provide abortion services in the Quad-Cities.
“We are committed to keeping our patients and staff safe,” said spokeswoman Kathi Di Nicola, Des Moines. “We have a state-of-the-art security system, and we work with area police.”
Davenport firefighters were also aware that Monday’s incident was an eerie reminder of the 9/11 attacks in 2001.
“It was certainly on our minds, but I’m not sure that McMenemy even knew what day it was,” Hayman said.
Deirdre Cox Baker can be contacted at (563) 383-2492 or firstname.lastname@example.org