A 44-year-old White man from Houlton, Maine, is facing a slew of hate crime charges for intentionally burning the predominantly Black Martin Luther King Jr. Community Presbyterian Church in Massachusetts, federal authorities said Thursday.
According to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Massachusetts, Dushko Vulchev appeared before a federal court Thursday where he was formally charged with four counts of damage to religious property involving fire and one count of use of fire to commit a federal felony, NBC News reported. The charges stem from a December 28 incident where Vulchev deliberately set the church – which is named after iconic Civil Rights Activist Martin Luther King Jr. – ablaze.
This was reportedly the fourth incident involving Vulchev burning the church. And the FBI said the December 28 arson “essentially destroyed” the religious establishment. The suspect was pinned to the fire incidents after CCTV footage, as well as store receipts and data retrieved from his cell phone, revealed he was around the said area on the occasions the church was set ablaze. Besides that, authorities also alleged Vulchev was involved in a series of car tire slashing incidents around the church.
A search on Vulchev’s Skype messages also revealed it was filled with several racist utterings, NBC News reported. Authorities said Vulchev’s girlfriend retrieved the messages in question from a computer in his car and subsequently saved them. She told investigators the suspect “frequently displayed racial animus toward non-whites and Muslims, and used the epithet ‘N—–‘ to describe Black people.”
In one of the messages, investigators said Vulchev allegedly wrote: “If I am raped in prison it better be by white people instead of filthy and nasty N——, who are ugly and grotesk!… If its not white then its not right!”
He also allegedly wrote in another message: “Eliminate all N——, that includes not watching a N—– bachelorette TV show.” Vulchev allegedly wrote that message during a season where a Black woman was the lead of The Bachelorette reality TV show.
Authorities also said they found an Adolf Hitler photo and a “White Lives Matter” mural during a search in his vehicle. Vulchev faces up to 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of up to $250,000 for the damage to religious property involving fire charge, the statement said. He also faces an additional minimum 10-year prison sentence for the use of fire to commit a federal felony charge.