BONNERS FERRY — A Bonners Ferry man was indicted Thursday in connection with a 2016 fire which destroyed St. Ann’s Catholic Church.
Shane R. Rucker, 33, was arrested without incident Thursday by Bonner County sheriff’s deputies. In the federal indictment, Rucker is charged with destruction of religious property and using a fire to damage or destroy religious property. He is expected to make an appearance before a federal magistrate in Coeur d’Alene today on the indictment.
On April 21, 2016, Rucker allegedly entered the St. Ann’s Catholic church and set three separate fires in the basement. The federal government became involved because of the federal violation of the Church Arson Prevention Act.
If found guilty, Rucker faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison.
Boundary County Sheriff Dave Kramer praised the teamwork between the various agencies, saying it led to Thursday’s indictment and arrest.
“This is an example of multiple agencies and officers working well together on a major crime,” Kramer said. “Teamwork is so valuable.”
Lt. Christian Frye of the Bonners Ferry Police Department, who is also a member of the Boundary County Sheriff’s Office Fire Investigation Unit, agreed.
“All of the agencies involved have worked really hard and well together throughout the process of this investigation, and we’re very excited to see this case go before judicial review,” he said.
Father Carlos Perez of St. Ann’s Catholic Church said a month before the alleged arson, the church was vadalized, the sanctuary desecrated with satanic symbols and a cross stolen from the tabernacle. In addition, the eyes were scratched out of both the statue of St. Ann and the Lady Guadalupe image that was etched in the stained glass window.
“As a priest I pray confession for him because I know he is a human being,” Perez said. “But he has to pay for his mistake. I tell you, we didn’t do anything to him and he has no idea how many people are suffering from his actions. I pray that my God will change his mind and his heart because that was a horrible thing that he did to us.”
Perez, who lives next to the church and made the 911 call on the night of the fire, said about 12:45 a.m., he heard what sounded like two bombs exploding.
“On the night of the fire, he stole the wine from our sanctuary and took it behind the Baptist Church across the street and drank it,” Perez said. “He has no idea how this has affected myself and the other parishioners. I was extremely depressed and crying for weeks after the fire. The image of the church burning is still in my mind. Our parishioners had donated a lot of time and money and we had completely remodeled the church from the ground up and we were very proud of our hard work.”
Perez said the church plans to rebuild this coming spring. The majority of the construction costs will be covered by insurance, however the church has to raise an additional $500,000. So far, $184,000 has been raised through donations.
The case was investigated by the City of Bonners Ferry Fire Department, Bonners Ferry Police Department, in conjunction with the Boundary County Sheriff’s Office Fire Investigation Unit, the Bonner County Sheriff’s Office, the Idaho State Fire Marshal, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, and the FBI. The case is being prosecuted by U.S. Attorney Wendy Olson and Assistant U.S. Attorney Traci Whelan of the District of Idaho and Trial Attorney Angie Cha of the Civil Rights Division.