Two years ago, Vincent Eovacious ushered congregants to their seats at Trinity Lutheran Church in Worcester, the same sanctuary where he was baptized. That same year, he used social media to urge new drivers to apply for voter registration at the same time as their learner’s permits.
The Worcester teen made headlines last week as “a self-described anarchist" arrested with Molotov cocktails at a demonstration over the police killing of George Floyd.
This is nothing like the “Vinnie” his community knows, said Pastor Nathan Pipho.
“We are heartbroken by the charges against Vinnie, who we know and love as a baptized and beloved child of God," Pipho said in a telephone interview. "We are praying for Vinnie’s protection and guidance in the legal process ahead, and for Vinnie’s family in this difficult time.”
The protest on June 1 in Worcester had grown riotous by 10 p.m. The crowd hurled rocks, bottles, and lit firecrackers at police as they held a tactical line formation on Main Street.
Officer Ilirjan Jano reported that he spotted Eovacious, 18, on a rooftop shoving a rag into a bottle filled with liquid and trying to light it. He said he also heard Eovacious shouting for the crowd to “kill the police," according to a complaint filed in US District Court.
Eovacious wore a trench coat and carried five white rags and three glass bottles semi-filled with gasoline, the makings for more than one Molotov cocktail, in a satchel slung over his shoulder, the complaint said. He also had two lighters.
After he was read his Miranda rights, Eovacious allegedly admitted that he was with “the anarchist group." According to the complaint, Eovacious told arresting officers he had been “waiting for an opportunity.”
The complaint did not specify the name of the group Eovacious claimed to be affiliated with.
Eovacious’s court-appointed federal public defender declined to comment. “At this time we do not have any comment as it is too premature to evaluate what is in his best interest,” said Jessica Thrall. Attempts to reach Eovacious through his lawyer and pastor were unsuccessful.
A video clip posted to Twitter of Eovacious’s arrest on charges of civil disobedience and possession of a destructive device shows the teen, his black hair pulled back in a long ponytail and a kerchief dotted in white stars tied over his mouth and nose. He stands at the hood of a flashing blue patrol car as officers rifle through his pockets.
Eovacious was one of nearly 20 arrested over two days of protests.
By all accounts, Eovacious is a good student, a class of 2020 high school senior, with a part-time job. His principal wrote a letter of endorsement for Eovacious’s lawyer to read to the judge at a court hearing last week.
The teen does not come across as an anarchist, said Pipho.
“From my experience, Vinnie was more of a free spirit, an independent thinker type, one that didn’t just accept the status quo, but would have thought through it and challenged it, not from my experience in harmful or destructive ways, but in probing ways," Pipho said.
Not that many years ago, Eovacious and his parents posed for photos at Disney and Red Sox games. He and his father camped at Treasure Valley Scout Reserve in Rutland. The teen ran 5Ks with a cousin and participated in church youth group activities and outings.
An overview of Eovacious’s social media shows a gaming enthusiast with an interest in urban downhill mountain-bike racing and a penchant for quoting fictional characters from BioShock and Rainbow 6 Siege video games.
About four years ago, Eovacious uploaded an image of a capital A scrawled in red and encircled by a capital O as a social media profile picture. The circle-A is the best-known contemporary symbol for anarchy.
Pipho declined to discuss the allegations lodged against Eovacious but emphasized he’s never been an adolescent to worry about.
“Everybody loves him,” Pipho said. “No one was thinking things are going to go bad for this kid.”
After his arrest, Eovacious was held at Donald W. Wyatt Detention Facility in Central Falls, R.I.
US Attorney Andrew Lelling announced the arrest of the “self-described anarchist” in a news release.
“The right to protest is not the right to hurt police officers and destroy property,” Lelling said. “We will aggressively prosecute anyone who pursues violence under cover of peaceful protest.”
Eovacious faces 15 years in federal prison, if convicted as charged.
At a court hearing conducted via video conference last Friday, US Magistrate Judge David H. Hennessy ordered a $5,000 unsecured bond and home detention for Eovacious. He released the teen into his father Scott Eovacious’s custody.
Eovacious must take prescribed medications and continue mental health treatment at a behavioral health clinic in Worcester, Hennessy said. He forbade Eovacious from drinking alcohol, possessing firearms or weapons, and ordered random drug analysis, court records show.
If Eovacious still has a job at Whole Foods after his arrest, he can continue to work there part-time as long as his parents drive him to and from, the judge said.
Eovacious has not yet been arraigned on the charges. It was unclear if his next court date has been scheduled.
Pastor Pipho said he wasn’t at all surprised to see Eovacious attend a protest against racial injustice; it’s in the spirit of the congregation.
“At Trinity, we reflect within our membership what we’re seeing across the country," Pipho said. "We also have other youth really connecting with and supporting peaceful protest on these racial issues and believing the voices of protesters need to be heard.”