A federal grand jury in Springfield, Mass. has indicted a Maine man for hate crime offenses in connection with a fire that severely damaged a predominately Black church in Springfield over a year ago.

Forty-five-year-old Dushko Vulchev of Houlton was indicted Thursday on four counts of damage to religious property involving fire and one count of use of fire to commit a federal felony. He faces up to 30 years in prison if convicted.

According to court documents, police witnessed a fire at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Presbyterian Church in the early morning hours of Dec. 28, 2020, which caused significant damage to the building.

An investigation determined that the fire was preceded by earlier arson attempts and malicious damage to vehicles on church property and in the surrounding area. These included a fire at the backdoor of the MLK Church on Dec. 13, 2020, and two more fires in the same area two days later.

Review of video surveillance identified Vulchev as the alleged perpetrator, according to a news release from the U.S. Department of Justice.

Court documents state that during a search of Vulchev’s vehicle, "multiple electronic storage devices containing images demonstrating his racial animus toward Black people, including a 'White Lives Matter' mural and a photo of Adolf Hitler in a track suit were seized."

Vulchev’s electronic devices also allegedly contained messages revealing his hatred of Black people dating back several years. Individuals familiar with Vulchev told law enforcement that he frequently displayed animosity towards non-whites and routinely referred to Black people with a racial slur, according to court records.

The charge of damage to religious property involving fire carries a sentence of up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. The charge of use of fire to commit a federal felony provides for a sentence of at least 10 years in prison.

The Justice Department said the details contained in the indictment are allegations. The defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

 

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