SAN GABRIEL (CBSLA) — A 57-year-old man was charged Tuesday with setting the fire that caused extensive damage to the San Gabriel Mission last summer.
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John David Corey, a convicted arsonist also known as Joker, was charged with two felony counts of arson of an inhabited structure, one count each of arson during a state of emergency, first degree residential burglary and possession of flammable material, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.
The case has been filed for warrant, and a date of arraignment has not yet been set, the District Attorney’s Office said.
Prosecutors say Corey broke into the historic mission on July 11 and started the fire, which spread to the roof and along the length of the church. The church’s wood and pews were completely gutted, but firefighters were able to get control of the flames before they reached the altar and museum. The mission’s concrete exterior remained standing.READ MORE: California Ranked Third-Creepiest State In America
“The loss to the mission was in the millions of dollars, but the loss to the community is immeasurable,” Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón said in a statement.
The mission had been closed due to the pandemic and had been scheduled to reopen for mass a week before the fire. At the time of the fire, the mission was undergoing renovations so many of its priceless artifacts had already been removed for safekeeping and were not lost to the fire.
Father John Molyneux, pastor of the San Gabriel Mission, says the fire has rocked the faith of the entire community.
“But we are resurrection people. And we look ahead to the future with a renewed sense of hope,” he said.MORE NEWS: Orange County Residents In Burn Scar Areas Keeping Close Watch On Rain Water Coming Down Canyons
The church is undergoing restoration work now, and they hope to have the roof repaired in time for the mission’s 250th anniversary in September.