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Press Release

New Mexico Man Indicted for Allegedly Trying to Burn Down Church Preschool and Strip Mall in San Bernardino County

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Central District of California

RIVERSIDE, California – A federal grand jury today returned a two-count indictment against a New Mexico man who allegedly tried to burn down a San Bernardino County church preschool while children and school employees were inside and, that same day, tried to burn down a strip mall.

Jonathan A. Barajas Nava, 36, of Albuquerque, New Mexico, is charged with two counts of attempted destruction of property by means of fire.

Nava was arrested on April 24 and was charged in state court prior to a federal criminal case being brought against him. Nava made his initial appearance in the federal case on May 8 and was ordered detained pending trial.

He is scheduled for arraignment on May 28 in United States District Court in Riverside.

According to an affidavit previously filed with a criminal complaint in this case, on April 24, Nava tried to burn down the Retreat Church and Yucaipa Christian Preschool by pouring an ignitable liquid on the church preschool’s entrance and lighting it on fire.  There were 48 preschoolers and 14 staff members inside the church preschool at the time, but no one was injured. 

That same day, Nava allegedly tried to burn down a Yucaipa strip mall by pouring an ignitable liquid on the building’s gas meters and then lighting the gas meters on fire. 

A criminal complaint and an indictment are merely allegations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

If convicted of both charges, Nava would face a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in federal prison and a statutory maximum sentence of 40 years in federal prison.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, and the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department are investigating this matter.

Assistant United States Attorneys Peter Dahlquist and Austin D. Young of the Riverside Branch Office are prosecuting this case.


Ciaran McEvoy
Public Information Officer
(213) 894-4465

Updated May 22, 2024

Violent Crime
Press Release Number: 24-123