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Man charged with arson attack on Black church caught with help from Tesla security camera

A man was arrested and charged with setting fire to a Black church, with the help of video footage from a Tesla car.

Dushko Vulchev, 44, from Maine is accused of attacking the Martin Luther King Jr Community Presbyterian Church in Springfield, Massachusetts, which has a primarily Black congregation.

Officials say that the fire was intentionally set and caused extensive damage to the church on 28 December.

Prosecutors also allege that Mr Vulchev was responsible for several other fires that were started on church property last December and the slashing of car tyres in the area.

Law enforcement officials began suspecting Mr Vulchev after he was spotted on several security cameras, including from a Tesla vehicle that had its tyres damaged.

Mr Vulchev’s own vehicle, a silver Chevy Cruze, was also identified on city video footage near the church shortly before the 28 December arson took place.

Prosecutors say that location data from Mr Vulchev’s phone showed that he was near or at the scene of the crimes.

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FBI investigators concluded that Mr Vulchev had committed the arson out of hatred of African-Americans and support of white supremacy.

“A subsequent search of Vulchev’s vehicle and electronic devices revealed messages from Vulchev demonstrating Vulchev’s hatred of Black people, including recent messages from Vulchev in December 2020 calling to ‘eliminate all N****s’,” stated the US Attorney’s Office in Massachusetts. 

“In addition, the devices contained images demonstrating Vulchev’s racial animus toward Black people.”

The suspect remains in custody and will make his initial appearance at the federal court in Springfield at a future date.

Mr Vulchev has been charged with damage to religious property and use of fire to commit a federal felony. 

He faces up to a combined 30 years in prison for both charges and a $250,000 fine.