Springfield, Massachusetts - A Maine man was indicted Thursday by a federal grand jury in Springfield, in connection with the December 28, 2020, fire that destroyed a predominately Black church in Springfield.
Dushko Vulchev, 45, of Houlton, Maine, was indicted by a federal grand jury on four counts of damage to religious property involving fire and one count of use of fire to commit a federal felony. Vulchev was previously charged by criminal complaint in April 2021.
According to court documents, in the early morning hours of Dec. 28, 2020, law enforcement observed a fire at the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Presbyterian Church (MLK Church) which caused significant damage to the building. During a subsequent investigation, it was determined that the fire was related to other incidents, including arsons and malicious damage to vehicles, that occurred on church property and the surrounding area. These included a fire at the backdoor of the MLK Church on Dec. 13, 2020, and two additional fires near the backdoor of the church on Dec. 15, 2020. Further investigation, including the review of video surveillance, identified Vulchev as the alleged perpetrator.
According to court documents, during a subsequent search of Vulchev’s vehicle, multiple electronic storage devices containing images demonstrating Vulchev’s 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 Vulchev’s hatred of Black people dating back several years, with Vulchev’s recent messages from December 2020 calling to “eliminate all N****s.” According to the court documents, individuals familiar with Vulchev told law enforcement that Vulchev frequently displayed racial animus towards non-whites and routinely referred to Black people using a racial epithet.
The charge of damage to religious property involving fire provides for a sentence of up to 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release 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, in addition to any sentence received for the other charged crimes. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division; U.S. Attorney Rachael S. Rollins for the District of Massachusetts; Special Agent in Charge Joseph R. Bonavolonta of the FBI; James M. Ferguson of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, Boston Field Division; and Peter Ostroskey, Massachusetts State Police Fire Marshal, made the announcement today. Assistance was provided by Hampden District Attorney’s Office; Berkshire District Attorney’s Office; Springfield Police Department; Springfield Fire Department; Pittsfield Police Department; American International College Police Department; Houlton (Maine) Police Department; and Newington (Conn.) Police Department.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Deepika Bains Shukla, Chief of Rollins’s Springfield Branch Office and Trial Attorney Kyle Boynton of the Civil Rights Division.
The details contained in the indictment are allegations. The defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.