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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Massachusetts

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, February 10, 2022

Maine Man Indicted for Hate Crime Offenses Relating to Burning of a Black Church in Springfield, Massachusetts

BOSTON – A Maine man was indicted today by a federal grand jury in Springfield, Mass., in connection with the Dec. 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 and 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,” and stating “I need a gun to kill 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.

United States Attorney Rachael S. Rollins; Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division; Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Division; James M. Ferguson, Special Agent in Charge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives, Boston Field Division; and Massachusetts State Police Fire Marshal Peter Ostroskey made the announcement today. Assistance was provided by Hampden and Berkshire District Attorney’s Office; Springfield Fire Department; and the Springfield, Pittsfield, Houlton (Maine), Newington (Conn.) and American International College Police Departments. Assistant U.S. Attorney Deepika Bains Shukla, Chief of Rollins’s Springfield Branch Office and Trial Attorney Kyle Boynton of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division are prosecuting the case.

The details contained in the court documents are allegations. The defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

Topic(s): 
Hate Crimes
Component(s): 
Updated February 10, 2022