SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Authorities have arrested a man on several charges in connection with fires at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Presbyterian Church in Springfield last month.
Department of Fire Services spokeswoman Jennifer Mieth on Saturday said the Pittsfield Police Department arrested Dushko Vulchev of Houlton, Maine, on Friday. He is charged with several counts of malicious damage and three counts of attempted arson.
A photo of Vulchev was not provided.
According to Mieth, there were previous attempts to burn the church down including one on December 13, 2020 and two on December 15. No one was hurt in those attempts and no injuries were reported in the early morning fire on Monday, December 28, 2020.
Vulchev is currently in custody and being held on an undisclosed bail amount until his arraignment Monday morning in Pittsfield District Court.
The investigation into the fire, which Springfield fire officials considered “highly suspicious” and even a potential hate crime, is ongoing, Mieth said.
On Thursday, Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno and MLK Church Pastor Rev. Dr. Terrlyn L. Curry Avery announced they were notified by authorities that an individual was arrested on unrelated charges and could be linked to the fire at the predominantly black church.
Vulchev’s identity was not made public until Saturday.
“If this is the individual, it really sort of eases the mind a little bit to know that this person is off the street and they can’t go and do it to some other church because we certainly don’t want any other congregation to experience what we have this week.”Pastor Rev. Dr. Terrlyn L. Curry Avery
Springfield firefighters were called to the MLK church located at 14 Concord Terrace at about 5 a.m. Monday for the fire, which caused heavy damage to the structure. No one was inside the church or around the area when firefighters arrived, according to fire officials.
The congregation, which was established back in 1979, has been holding virtual services due to the pandemic. The church has insurance and will continue to do virtual services until they figure out what’s next.
The fire was investigated by local and federal authorities including the Springfield Arson and Bomb Squad, State Police Arson and Bomb Squad, the (FBI), and (ATF).