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Spring Valley arsonist also charged with hate crime

Hate crime charges were added Friday to the arson case of an ex- felon accused of torching the Santa Sophia Catholic Church in Spring Valley, which sustained $200,000 in damages on Oct. 8.  

Spring Valley arsonist also charged with hate crime

Hate crime charges were added Friday to the arson case of an ex- felon accused of torching the Santa Sophia Catholic Church in Spring Valley, which sustained $200,000 in damages on Oct. 8.  

Eugene William Volk, 45, is charged with arson, and was also convicted of vehicular manslaughter in a deadly car crash in 1991 that killed a 14-year-old boy. Volk was under the influence of PCP in the crash and he was sentenced to nine years in prison, according to court records.

Volk pleaded not guilty Oct. 25 before El Cajon Superior Court Judge Charles Ervin, who set a preliminary hearing for Dec. 18. Volk remains in jail on $505,000 bail.

The new charges say Volk committed the arson to a place of worship because of his hatred of religion. The Spring Valley man is also accused of felony vandalism. He is also charged with a separate case of domestic violence, and has a 1988 conviction for burglary.

On July 6, 1991, Volk rear-ended a truck on Interstate 805 and killed Gerardo Salazar, 14, a passenger in the truck. He pleaded guilty to vehicular manslaughter while under the influence of PCP, court records show.

Volk got 9 years in prison on Nov. 5, 1991, by San Diego Superior Court Judge Charles Hayes. The victim was killed from blunt force trauma after the truck rolled over, causing injuries to others. 

The fire occurred in the sanctuary of the Spring Valley church. Father Jacob Bertand told his congregation the fire caused “tough damages to repair but not insurmountable” on the church’s web site. 

“It is with thanksgiving we acknowledge God’s goodness in that the fire was discovered early and we have very manageable repairs,” wrote Bertand. 

Security guard filing false report fined and placed on probation

A former security guard who fired shots at his employer’s patrol car and made up a story he had been shot at on state Route 67 was ordered Oct. 23 to pay $1,950 to his employer in damages.

Lance Edward Wright, 23, of Santee, received credit of four days in jail and a suspended 176-day jail term from El Cajon Superior Court Lantz Lewis, who placed him on three years probation. He was fined $1,394 and ordered to pay $1,127 in probation costs.

Wright was fired from the Bravo Three Security firm, based in East County, after sheriff’s deputies arrested him. Wright claimed he was shot at on April 5 by occupants of a station wagon around 3:30 a.m. near Lakeside and that he returned fire. He also claimed someone shot at him last Feb. on the same highway.

Deputies concluded Wright would have had injuries from the window glass breaking had he been in the company car when the shots were fired, and they found other inconsistencies. 

Wright pleaded guilty to shooting at an unoccupied vehicle and making a false report of an emergency. The prosecutor did not seek any more time in jail, but Wright is facing another sentencing on Nov. 12 in San Diego Superior Court after pleading guilty to making false statements regarding a workers injury claim in the same incident.

Wright told a probation official he had trouble sleeping and been awake for 30 hours when he fired the shots into the vehicle. 

“The story was so I wouldn’t get into trouble. I have a sleeping problem and the graveyard shift was killing me,” Wright was quoted as saying in the probation report. “It’s obviously the stupidest thing I’ve ever done.”

Wright served in Afghanistan as a military police officer with the Army National Guard for a year. His attorney said Wright was diagnosed with posttraumatic stress disorder after witnessing the death of a good friend in Afghanistan.

 

The probation officer wrote Wright “seemed extremely embarrassed” about his conduct and showed remorse. Wright, who is married, is in counseling, and the probation officer wrote that perhaps the incident was “a cry for help.” He is now working in another field.

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