Abortion clinic is set on fire and vandalized

By Shannon O'Boye
Staff Writer
Posted May 30 2003

Broward County sheriff's detectives are investigating what could be the country's first arson attack on an abortion clinic this year, officials said.

Detectives could not say for sure that the arson fire and vandalism at Dr. Michael Benjamin's Tamarac office was the work of political or religious extremists, but the case was assigned to the department's elite Strategic Investigations Unit, which handles the largest and most complex investigations.

The FBI and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms are involved as well.

On Sunday morning, just past midnight, someone started a fire at Benjamin's office in the 7700 block of North University Drive by pouring a flammable liquid on the door and through the mail slot. The small fire burned itself out but caused smoke damage inside, said Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Liz Calzadilla.

The same person or people used red paint to blot out Benjamin's name on two building directories and deface 10 parking spaces reserved for Benjamin's patients.

On Thursday, Benjamin, 63, an obstetrician/gynecologist, directed all calls to the Washington, D.C., office of the National Abortion Federation, of which he is a member.

Vicki Saporta, its president and CEO, said she had little doubt that Benjamin was targeted because he performs abortions. She said this was the first arson attack in the country this year.

Shannon O'Boye can be reached at [email protected] or 954-356-4597.