Buffalo, NY — 28-year old Kenneth Walker, the only Black volunteer firefighter at the fire department in North Tonawanda (in upstate New York), received a racist letter that included the N-word in his mailbox. Two days later, his home was burned down. He told reporters that his family is safe, and he was not home at the time of the fire – but that his family has lost everything.
After the local police department and the FBI started investigating to determine if this was a hate crime, they found arrested Matthew Jurado, a former firefighter who lived directly across the street from Walker. 39-year old Jurado, who police said knew Walker personally, admitted to them that he started the fire and has been charged with arson in the second degree. Jurado, however, has denied writing the racist letter.
Mayor Arthur Pappas, who spoke out against the letter and the arson, is calling for justice. He commented, “We’re totally disgusted that anyone would continue to do this. Whoever is responsible is certainly doing something that’s very distasteful and hateful.”
Meanwhile, local residents are being very supportive and have been asking for ways they could help at the scene of the fire. One local business owner told reporters, “I’m just shocked. The people in North Tonawanda would never do something like this so I’ll find this interesting to see who the suspect is. I hope they prosecute to the full extent of the law.”
The Gratwick Hose Fire Company even held a donation drive to benefit Walker and his family. Local residents donated furniture, household items, clothing, toiletries, food and toys for their two children.
A GoFundMe crowdfunding campaign has also been launched for Kenneth and his family at www.gofundme.com/2hunioc. It has already raised more than $100,000.
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