SALEM, Ore. — Police announced Tuesday that they have arrested the suspect in a string of recent burglaries at a church in downtown Salem. The Way Church was vandalized at least three times in February alone.
According to the Salem Police Department (SPD), detectives and members of the Community Action Unit arrested 31-year-old Victor Soseia Hachipan, charging him with second-degree arson and two counts of second-degree burglary.
SPD said that Hachipan was linked to three burglaries involving broken windows and forced entry into the building, including "an attempt to set window coverings on fire."
KGW spoke to pastor Alex Yermachenkov at the end of February. He said the building has had seven windows broken within the preceding six months, five of those within the last two weeks of February.
"We're thinking of just boarding [the windows] all up for now, because we're tired of changing windows, and they keep coming back," Yermachenkov said at the time.
The worst incident, Yermachenkov said, was on Valentine's Day. Someone broke through a window, entered the church, intentionally pushed over and destroyed expensive monitors and poured liquid over the electronic soundboard. This was when Salem Police said the suspect tried to light a fire.
The crimes and destruction come at a tough time for Yermachenkov and his congregation. Yermachenkov is both Russian and Ukrainian. His congregation is a mix of people of Russian, Ukranian and US descent, all watching war unfold in Europe.
Yermachenkov explained the crimes targeting his church were already happening before the conflict overseas, so he does not believe they are connected. However, the damage made a difficult and stressful time even harder.
"We're fighting the good fight," Yermachenkov said. "We're here to make this place a better place, but there will always be an opposition."