Man arrested in connection with fire at St. Gregory of Nyssa Greek Orthodox Church in El Cajon

Man suspected of arson, burglary, hate crime

EL CAJON, Calif. - A 38-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of arson, burglary and committing a hate crime after a fire on Sunday caused about $250,000 in damage to a Greek Orthodox church in unincorporated El Cajon, a sheriff's sergeant said.

Darin Williams was quickly identified as a suspect in the apparent arson, investigators said.

The 4 a.m. fire was at the Saint Gregory of Nyssa Greek Orthodox Church, according to sheriff's Sgt. E.J. Dayrit. The location is at 1966 Mary Ann Way, on the corner of Jamacha Road about one mile north of Campo Road.

No injuries were reported.

Investigators from the sheriff's Bomb/Arson Unit and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were summoned, and announced the arrest less than 10 hours after the fire. But they did not immediately disclose what led them to their suspect.

He was arrested on suspicion of arson, burglary and committing a hate crime, according to Dayrit, who added the investigation was ongoing.

Parishioners were shocked to find out the man arrested was someone they know.

“He was an on and off type of member he would be here for a few weeks and then you wouldn't see him for a while," said parishioner Larry Anderson.

Anderson also described Williams as a quiet man.

“It's sad that this happened.  We pray for him.  Anybody who would do this has troubles," he said.

On William's Facebook page, 10News found a link to the church's website posted just three hours before fire fighters were called to the church, located near Chase and Jamacha Road.

“We don't know,” Father Simeon Corona told 10News.  “We don't know details. All we know is Lord have mercy and be with them.”

Father Corona confirmed to 10News that he has known Williams for several years and that Williams was just released from a psychiatric institution.

He said Williams became upset after the two discussed Williams' living arrangements at another parishioners home.

Williams was booked into the San Diego Central Jail and was scheduled to be arraigned at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, according to jail records. Investigators said also that they will recommend a hate crime charge.

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