LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – John David Corey, accused of allegedly setting fire to the historic San Gabriel Mission last summer, pleaded not guilty Thursday.
The four-alarm fire caused extensive damage to the mission. Prosecutors allege the 57-year-old Corey, also known as “Joker,” broke into the mission in the early morning hours on July 11, 2020, and started the blaze. The fire spread to the roof and along the length of the church. Portions of the roof fell on firefighters who had to then evacuate, according to San Gabriel Fire Capt. Antonio Negrete, and one firefighter sustained non-life threatening injuries.READ MORE: GoFundMe Set Up For Tomas Mejia, Security Guard Fatally Stabbed At Park La Brea Apartments
It took firefighters more than four hours to get the fire out, but they were able to stop the flames before they reached the altar, museum and and the adjacent rectory.
Corey was charged May 4 with two felony counts of arson, among other charges. According to officials at the San Gabriel Fire Department, Corey had been arrested and sentenced to three years in another arson case that happened after the mission fire.
“It was during this separate incident that investigators deemed Mr. Corey a person of interest. After a thorough investigation, investigators determined that Corey was responsible for the fire at the Mission San Gabriel,” read a statement issued by the department after the case was filed.READ MORE: United Teachers LA Vote In Favor Of Agreement With LAUSD For Physical Return To 2021-2022 School Year
A fundraising campaign was launched to help repair the church, which is targeted for completion in spring 2022, according to the missions website.
“The loss to the mission was in the millions of dollars, but the loss to the community is immeasurable,” District Attorney George Gascon said in a written statement announcing the charges.
Corey faces up to 14 years in prison and remains jailed in lieu of $250,000 bail.MORE NEWS: Suspected Car Thief In Custody After Pursuit Ends In North Hollywood
(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)