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 Joseph Zanola for Google Earth

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee (LifeSiteNews) — The FBI named a late pro-life Catholic as the shooter of a federal building in Knoxville, Tennessee, but the Bureau never proved that he did it.

On July 18, 2022, the FBI arrested a pro-life Catholic man, Mark Reno of Knoxville, Tennessee. He was charged with firing shots at the John J. Duncan building on the corner of Locust Street and Cumberland Avenue. Reno was indicted by a grand jury, denied bail, and incarcerated at the Laurel County Correctional Center in London, Kentucky.

Although he was in reasonably good health when he was arrested, Reno died 28 days later at the age of 63. While incarcerated, he received none of his prescribed medications. His family were told that he bled to death from an ulcer, but they never received an autopsy report.

After his death, the federal government pinned Reno for the unsolved arson of a Planned Parenthood.

On November 1, 2022, the Department of Justice issued a press release naming Reno as the arsonist who had burned down Knoxville’s Planned Parenthood on December 31, 2021. However, recent evidence from the Knoxville Fire Department showing that the suspect differed in build from Reno has exonerated the latter of the arson charge.

The question remains: Did Mark Reno shoot at the Duncan building?

The November 2022 DoJ press release has a significant error in the second paragraph.  The press release states that “[On] June 18, 2022, Reno utilized the same pickup truck and a .22 caliber rifle with an illegal suppressor to shoot the windows at the John J. Duncan Federal Office Building in downtown Knoxville.” However, the government never made this allegation against Reno in any form.

Had he lived, it’s unlikely that Mark Reno would have been convicted of shooting at the Duncan Building.

In the spring of 2022, Reno drew the attention of both the Knoxville Fire Department and the FBI, both because his red 2006 GMC Sierra was a plausible match to the arsonist’s truck captured by Planned Parenthood’s security video and because he was a pro-life Catholic. On April 26, 2022, an undercover officer for the Knoxville Fire Department engaged Reno in a conversation which was surreptitiously recorded with FBI equipment. In this conversation, Reno made brash obscenity-laced statements threatening federal institutions and law enforcement. He also said he attended the protest at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, though the FBI confirmed that he never entered the Capitol Building.

Based on this recorded conversation, the FBI obtained court authorization on June 13, 2022, to place tracking devices on both of Reno’s vehicles—his red GMC Sierra pick-up and his black 2012 Ford Fusion sedan.

The FBI alleged that on Sunday, July 3, 2022, Reno left Holy Ghost Catholic Church after Sunday Mass, drove downtown, and used a .22 caliber rifle to shoot three windows of the Duncan building from his car while driving south on Locust Street. He would have been firing orthogonally at the windows from a distance of about 30 feet.

Although the security guard reported hearing two loud bangs when the windows broke, no one else reported gunshots in the area. No .22 caliber bullets or shells were recovered from the scene. All damaged windows were double-paned. The exterior pane had a discernable point of impact from which cracks radiated, but the inner panes were undamaged.  The total value of the damage was $5440.

RELATED: New Knoxville Planned Parenthood security video casts doubt on FBI case against pro-lifer

No firearm owned by Reno was ever linked to physical evidence at the scene. All the FBI’s evidence against Reno pertained exclusively to his black Ford Fusion sedan.  Citing tracker data, street cameras, and building security video, the FBI alleged that Reno was driving his sedan south on Locust Street, adjacent to the Duncan building, precisely when the windows were broken and that he drove away immediately afterward. The FBI further alleged that security video showed that “an object pointing in the direction of the damaged lobby windows was briefly extended and then retracted through the driver’s side window” of Reno’s car.

When the FBI arrested Reno two weeks later, they conducted a search of his home and vehicles. On the rear seat of Reno’s Ford Fusion sedan, they found his Marlin Model 795 .22 caliber rifle with a “Solvent Trap” suppressor and subsonic ammunition.  They alleged that Reno used this rifle to shoot at the Duncan building, though the firearm was never linked to physical evidence at the scene.

All the government’s evidence pertained to Reno’s Ford Fusion sedan, but the FBI did not seize this vehicle at the time of his arrest on July 18, 2022.  This car was the only physical evidence linking Reno to the crime scene, but the FBI left it at his residence when they arrested him. It was not until months after Reno’s death—after there was no possibility of prosecuting him—that the FBI moved to seize the sedan by civil asset forfeiture, leaving his widow without transportation. The federal government seized the sedan and Reno’s red 2006 GMC pick-up truck on October 28, 2022, three days before accusing the deceased man of the Planned Parenthood arson.

How did the federal government intend to prosecute Reno for shooting at the Duncan building without having control of the vehicle—the only physical evidence linking him to the crime scene?

We can surmise the government’s case to the grand jury from its evidence list. The evidence list included the surreptitious April 26 recording of Reno and many photos of firearms and ammunition he owned. The government’s case was essentially this: We have recorded Reno making threatening statements against federal institutions and personnel; we have his car near the building at the time of the damage, and he had a lot of guns and ammunition. That would have been enough for any grand jury.  Notably lacking from the evidence list was anything from the actual crime scene—any photographs of the damaged windows or any security video, especially the video (or still images taken therefrom) showing an object “briefly extended and then retracted through the driver’s side window” of Reno’s car.

Reno had no recent criminal history. He did plead guilty to a charge of battery against a household member in 2005. He had several other dated charges, but not convictions, related to domestic violence. Reno had been married to his wife for 34 years.

This journalist has an active lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) for all FBI records related to Mark Reno or Knoxville’s Planned Parenthood arson.  The FBI has specifically denied a FOIA request for the surreptitious recording of Mark Reno made on April 26, 2022, even though it introduced this recording as evidence in Reno’s detention hearing.

Information for this article was drawn substantially from two affidavits, one by FBI Agent Jessi Mann and another by FBI Agent Thomas Calhoon.

RELATED: Pro-life journalist sues FBI for access to records on Knoxville Planned Parenthood arson