A 57-year-old man has been charged with arson in a blaze that ravaged the historic San Gabriel mission last summer.
John David Corey faces two arson counts on a manned structure and one arson chief during a state of emergency, first degree residential burglary and possession of flammable materials, Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. George Gascón announced Tuesday in a press release.
Corey’s arraignment date has yet to be set. The fire severely damaged the roof and interior of the 249-year-old historic structure.
Officials from the San Gabriel Fire Department, the Verdugo Fire Task Force and the Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles have scheduled a press conference for Tuesday afternoon.
The blaze was reported before dawn on July 11 and eventually became a four-alarm event involving 80 firefighters from seven cities. Responders had to exit the adobe-and-wood structure only about 15 minutes after entering, when parts of the roof began to collapse, but extinguished the fire in about 2.5 hours. No firefighter was injured.
Preliminary inquiries did not indicate arson.
While the altar, bell tower and several religious artifacts were spared, the roof was destroyed, as were many 107-year-old benches that had just been renovated.
Restoration of the mission will include the removal of steel beams, initially inserted in the 1990s as part of an earthquake renovation, which were deformed during the fire.
A temporary wooden roof and waterproof membrane were installed at the end of November.
For days after the fire, mourning parishioners stopped in the mission parking lot to cry, pray and remember.
“The San Gabriel Mission is one of those places that was a gathering place for people of all faiths here in San Gabriel,” said Denise Menchaca, a parishioner who was mayor at the time and still sits on council. municipal.
Menchaca said the timing of the fire made it particularly difficult to deal with the shock and heartache it caused, with COVID-19 limiting in-person gatherings and the feelings of some still-believed parishioners about George’s murder Floyd by the police.
“It was as if Notre Dame was on fire,” Menchaca said, referring to the 2019 fire in Paris Cathedral.
The alleged arson is one of the few that has targeted Catholic churches in the past decade, including fires at Resurrection Church in Boyle Heights in 2018 and St. John Vianney in Hacienda Heights in 2011.