SPRINGFIELD, MASS. (WHDH) - A Maine man is facing hate crime and arson charges after federal officials say he intentionally set a fire that destroyed a predominantly Black church in Massachusetts late last year.

Dushko Vulchev, 44, of Houlton, was charged Thursday in federal court with four counts of damage to religious property involving fire and one count of use of fire to commit a federal felony in connection with a blaze that reduced the Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Presbyterian Church in Springfield to rubble, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office of Massachusetts.

A fire set in the early morning hours of Dec. 28, 2020, caused extensive damage to the church, which was named in honor of the iconic civil rights leader, according to court documents.

Prosecutors added that Vulchev is responsible for several other fires that were previously set on the church property and for a string of tire slashings at the church and in the surrounding area.

Security video and location data from Vulchev’s mobile phone showed him at or near the scene of many of the crimes, according to investigators.

Dept. of Justice

A subsequent search of Vulchev’s vehicle and electronic devices revealed messages from him that allegedly demonstrated his hatred of Black people, including messages from December 2020 that call to “eliminate all N****s.”

The devices also reportedly contained images demonstrating Vulchev’s racial animus toward Black people.

If convicted, Vulchev could face up to three decades in prison and fine of $250,000.

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