EL CAJON – As the members of Saint Gregory of Nyssa Greek Orthodox Church gathered for a service on Sunday morning, January 27, they were stunned to see their church ruined after a fire.
According to the San Diego County Sheriff’s Sergeant E. J. Dayrit, the sheriff’s deputies, along with the fire personnel, were dispatched to the 1900 block of Mary Ann Ave of El Cajon early Sunday morning, at about 4:00 am, as they responded to a call from a local resident.
As they arrived, they found the Orthodox Church in flames and the neighbor reported that they heard a man yelling and then saw smoke coming from the church’s patio. The fire personnel worked quickly and managed to stop the fire in less than an hour. However, the church building, which the members were planning to rebuild, suffered damage of about $250, 000.
Investigators from Sheriff’s Bomb/Arson Unit and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were called onto the scene for investigation and eventually identified Darin Williams, 38 as a person of interest.
According to Reverend Simeon Corona, Williams attended the church and even rented a room from one of the parishioners. Moreover, he was recently released from a psychiatric hospital. Williams got very upset when Corona told him that he could no longer stay in the room he was renting unless he was taking his medications.
Williams was contacted and arrested by the police less than ten hours after the fire. He was booked into the San Diego Central Jail and charged for arson, burglary, and a hate crime. He is scheduled to appear in the court on Wednesday at 1:30 pm.
The church members began to recover their building and set up an altar in the church garage with the icons and other items that survived the fire. They held their service there and are thankful no one was injured in the incident.
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