Friends say clinic bomber opposed abortion


Published: Friday, January 6, 2012 at 7:35 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 6, 2012 at 7:35 p.m.

PENSACOLA — The homeless man accused of firebombing a Pensacola abortion clinic was new to the area, frequently drank alcohol and supported the almost daily anti-abortion protests at the clinic, according to those who knew him.

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This booking photo provided by the Escambia County Jail shows Bobby Joe Rogers of Tuscaloosa, Ala., on Thursday. (AP Photo/Escambia County Jail)

Other drifters said Bobby Joe Rogers talked about his dislike of the American Family Planning and abortion, but didn't have a well-formed political or religious agenda. Rogers recently became upset about seeing a woman leaving the clinic, said Michael Hughes, a drifter who was part of a group gathered Friday morning behind a boarded-up convenience store, where Rogers often stayed.

"He said she was bleeding," he said.

The clinic, which has been the site of anti-abortion violence going back nearly 30 years, has not returned messages from The Associated Press.

Rogers, 41, was arrested Thursday and charged with one count of damaging a building by fire or explosive. Rogers told investigators he intentionally set the fire around New Year's Eve by filling a beer bottle with gasoline and using an old shirt as a wick. No one was hurt in the fire, authorities said.

Rogers said he had recently witnessed an anti-abortion protest near the clinic.

"Rogers admitted to intentionally setting fire to the clinic due to his strong disbelief in abortion," an affidavit stated, and "he stated (he) was further fueled when he recently witnessed a young female entering the clinic while he was sitting amongst anti-abortion protesters."

Rogers has a past arrest record spanning nine states from the Southeast to the Midwest. Rogers has an extensive record of arrests in Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana, Iowa, Missouri and Florida, authorities reported. The affidavit shows that Rogers has felony convictions in Alabama, Tennessee and Missouri for burglary and in Mississippi for grand larceny.

Rogers was arrested for vehicle theft in Alachua County in 2009 and offered only "some kind of prison release ID card," when he and another man were pulled over driving in the stolen car, the arresting officer wrote in his report. The officer also noted open containers of alcohol in the car and said the men had been drinking.

Those who spent time with Rogers since his arrival a couple of months ago said he wandered around town and stayed at the convenience store.

"We come by here every once and a while, every two or three days and we would see him here," Lonnie Thompson said.

Hughes said Rogers told them he was from Birmingham, Ala., and that he traveled the country on freight trains.

The state Fire Marshal's Office said their investigation is ongoing.

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