SPRINGFIELD, Massachusetts — A Maine man who federal agents say harbored hatred toward Black people was charged Thursday morning by a federal grand jury in connection with a 2020 church burning.

Dushko Vulchev, 44, was previously charged in state court with a series of blazes at the Martin Luther King Jr. Presbyterian Church on Concord Terrace in late 2020, then later in federal court with hate crimes through a criminal complaint. The grand jury formerly charged him in a five-count criminal indictment on Thursday morning, according to court records.

He faces four counts of damaging religious property and one count of using fire to commit a federal felony.

Vulchev is a Houlton, Maine, resident who lived six hours from Springfield when he embarked on a tire slashing and fire-setting spree in Western Massachusetts that year. He set fire to the predominantly Black neighborhood church four times before virtually destroying it on Dec. 28, according to court records.

Authorities initially stopped short of calling the blazes racially-motivated until FBI agents scoured his electronic devices, social media accounts and interviewed witnesses who told authorities Vulchev had become consumed with bigotry.

One witness shared a message from Vulchez sent on Christmas Day of 2020 apparently trying to enlist the recipient’s help with a genocide, according to investigators.

It allegedly called for “eliminating all” Black people, adding: “It’s a matter of life and death, we are way behind schedule!”

Agents also recovered images from Vulchev’s phone including a meme of Adolf Hitler in a track suit and a “White Lives Matter” mural.

Authorities also have said the tire slashings were racially motivated.

Vulchez is a Bulgarian native with American citizenship who earned a master’s degree in business and finance from Boston University, a spokeswoman for the college confirmed. His previous criminal record includes convictions for domestic assault in 2016 and a 2015 federal conviction for sending emails to a Bulgarian government official threatening to “kill them like chickens.”

He served 258 days behind bars for both offenses, court records show.

Vulchez’s arraignment in U.S. District Court has not yet been scheduled.

Stephanie Barry, masslive.com