By Aya Elamroussi, CNN

A man has been charged with setting on fire a historic Catholic church in Southern California last summer, prosecutors said Tuesday.

The San Gabriel Mission was undergoing renovations to mark its 250th anniversary when a fire broke out July 11, engulfing the roof and front entrance of the church. Firefighters forced entry to tame the blaze, breaking parts of the roof and ceiling, officials said.


No one was hurt in the fire. John David Corey, 57, faces multiple charges, including two felony counts of arson of an inhabited structure and first-degree burglary, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office said Tuesday in a statement.

Corey, also known as Joker, is accused of “starting the fire which spread to the to the roof and along the length of the church,” prosecutors said in the statement.

A fire that gutted much of a historic Catholic church in Southern California last year was intentionally set, prosecutors said Tuesday.

The July 11 blaze engulfed the the rooftop and most of the interior of the San Gabriel Mission as it was undergoing renovations to mark its upcoming 250th anniversary celebration. No one was hurt in the fire.
Prosecutors say 57-year-old John David Corey broke into the 250-year-old Mission San Gabriel on July 11, 2020, and set a fire that badly damaged its historic church.
(Courtesy of LA County District Attorney’s Office)

It was not immediately clear whether Corey has an attorney. A date for Corey’s arraignment has not been set.

The massive fire left the church with heavy damage to the roof and considerable smoke and water damage to the sanctuary area, officials said.

The charred rooftop of the 215-year old church at Mission San Gabriel in Southern California, damaged by a July 11 fire, is visible from the trellis lining the entrance to the mission’s courtyard. (Courthouse News photo / Martin Macias Jr.)

“The loss to the mission was in the millions of dollars but the loss to the community is immeasurable,”

District Attorney George Gascón said in the statement.The San Gabriel Fire Department is still investigating the fire, prosecutors said.

The Archdiocese of Los Angeles, which owns the mission, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on charges filed Tuesday.

Previously, the Archdiocese has said Mission San Gabriel represents a cornerstone of the region’s Catholic tradition.




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