A man accused of setting a Black church ablaze has been charged with a hate crime.
According to reports, Dushko Vulchev of Houston, Maine allegedly burned the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Presbyterian Church in Springfield just days before the start of 2021. He was also accused of slashing tires on and around the church. The incident — which took place on Dec. 28, 2020 — is believed to be the suspect’s third attempt at igniting the church. He allegedly attacked days before on Dec. 13 and again on Dec. 15. Security videos and GPS data from Vulchev’s phone confirmed his presence at or close to the scene of the crimes.
Detectives also discovered messages that revealed his desire to “eliminate all niggas” upon further investigation of his personal devices.
Vulchev was arrested on Jan. 1 and has since been charged with four counts of damage to religious property involving fire and one count of use of fire to commit a federal felony. His bail was set at $25,000 — an amount that drew criticism from Domenic J. Sarno, the mayor of Springfield.
“A message needs to be sent for the demented actions taken by this individual and any others contemplating these types of hideous and hateful crimes,” Sarno said back in January.
“What type of message does this send to our Martin Luther King, Jr. Presbyterian Church family? Our African American community? And our brave and dedicated fire, police, and criminal justice professionals? I’ll tell you – the wrong one!”
The church’s reverend, on the contrary, exhibited extreme levels of faith in the wake of the incident. “We know that in the midst of this tragedy something good will come from it,” Reverend Dr. Terrlyn L. Curry Avery said. “I’m inspired because I’m wanting to see what new thing God is getting ready to do in our lives even as we mourn the loss of a church building.”