PITTSFIELD — The Maine man charged with trying burn a Springfield church whose congregation is predominantly Black has been linked to a racist incident in Pittsfield.
Dushko Vulchev has been charged with several counts of malicious damage and three counts of attempted arson of the Martin Luther King Jr. Presbyterian Church in Springfield. According to a spokeswoman for the State Fire Marshal's Office, one attempt to burn the church was made Dec. 13 and two were made Dec. 15.
Months earlier, Vulchev sent a package with a racist epithet to a Pittsfield address, according to court documents. Other conduct by Vulchev in Pittsfield remains under investigation by city police, said Capt. Mark Trapani. According to a brief Pittsfield Police report, Vulchev is a suspect “in several acts of vandalism” that occurred in the city that could result in charges; police did not say when those acts took place.
Trapani said in an email that “the acts of vandalism [in Pittsfield] are not similar at all to the Springfield acts,” and that they do not “appear to target persons or places based on race/color/creed etc.”
Last summer, in addition to the package sent to a Pittsfield address, Vulchev sent three “unwanted letters” to the same address. The home is occupied by family members of a woman who Vulchev held captive in his Houlton, Maine, home in 2016, according to a statement on file at Pittsfield District Court.
The statement said the package was received Aug. 7 and contained a white mailbox. On a priority mail shipping label included with the package were scrawled the words, “PLEASE INSTALL URGENTLY / ELIMINATE ALL [RACIST EPITHETS].”
The day before, Vulchev had driven to the Pittsfield property and left a printer on the porch, according to the statement. The statement was filed as evidence for a permanent harassment protection order that the woman’s family members subsequently obtained against Vulchev.
Pittsfield Police examined the printer and discovered it “contain[ed] a representation of the KKK on a sheet of paper.”
For the incident in which the woman said she was held captive in Maine, Vulchev was sentenced to 258 days in jail, with credit for time served in the Aroostook County Jail and at a mental health facility, according to a local news outlet in Maine.
Vulchev, who is listed in federal court documents as having dual U.S.-Bulgarian citizenship, has a history of sending threats.
In 2015, federal authorities charged Vulchev with making a foreign commerce threat, after Vulchev sent an email to a member of the European Commission threatening to “KILL YOU ALL LIKE CHICKENS” if his wishes weren’t met, according to federal court documents. He later pleaded guilty to a petty offense and was sentenced to six months of time served. Federal authorities said he also emailed threats to foreign officials in Bulgaria and to a professor.
Authorities are investigating a fire that broke out at the Springfield church Dec. 28, causing $100,000 damage, according to MassLive. The day of the fire, Springfield Fire Commissioner Bernard J. Calvi said it was “highly suspicious” but had not determined whether the blaze intentionally was set.
As investigators probed whether the blaze was an act of arson, Calvi called the fire “a potential hate crime.” Members of the Springfield Arson and Bomb Squad, Springfield Police detectives, State Police assigned to the Office of the State Fire Marshal, agents from the FBI and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are involved in the investigation.
Pittsfield Police learned that Vulchev was “back in Pittsfield” on Dec. 30, moved to place him under surveillance and alerted other law enforcement agencies, according to Trapani. The Pittsfield Police investigation predates Springfield’s, he said.
“We began looking for him at this time because we were very concerned about why he was coming back to Pittsfield and if it were connected or related to his alleged actions in Springfield,” he wrote.
Pittsfield Police helped other agencies seize Vulchev’s vehicle, pending a warrant to search it, Trapani said. After that, police spoke with Vulchev, who declined an offer of help in finding shelter for the night. Officers kept him under surveillance, and after the arrest warrant was issued Thursday in the Springfield matter, they arrested Vulchev in a hallway on the third floor of 100 North St., according to a police report.
There is office space on the third floor of the building occupied by different businesses. Municipal offices are the second floor.
Vulchev had been due to be arraigned Monday in Pittsfield District Court, but there were no local charges and the clerk’s office said Vulchev was to be taken to Springfield District Court for arraignment on the alleged arson case.
A spokesman for Hampden District Attorney Anthony D. Gulluni said that, to his knowledge, Vulchev had not been arraigned Monday. He did not immediately return an email seeking the date of Vulchev’s court appearance.