The days of fires and vandalism perpetrated by racists at Black family homes are not long behind us.
The FBI is now investigating a fire that broke out at Connersville City Councilman Tommy Williams’ home in Indiana on Friday as a possible hate crime. What made it suspicious? Someone painted a racial slur on the back porch.
According to the Associated Press, the fire started around 3:30 a.m. while Williams was in Germany and his wife was on a trip to Florida. Their neighbors called the fire department when the fire began blazing, but the home still sustained significant damage.
Williams and his wife, Emma, who grew up in Connersville, Ind., are an interracial couple. This is his first term on the council and he is the only Black member.
Two family pets, a dog and cat, were killed in the fire, WISH-TV 8 reports, but lucky the couple’s twin sons, along with a third pet, a dog named Buddy, were at another location.
He believes the fire was set intentionally. Whoever set the fire took all of his clothes out of his closet and set them on fire.
The front bedroom sustained the greatest fire damage. There was significant smoke and water damage throughout the entire first floor.
However, the most significant damage was not the fire but spray paint. “Someone at some point sprayed the N-word on the back patio. Pretty large, I would say. I would say over a foot tall each letter,” Emma Williams said.
WISH-TV also reports that the Connersville police handed the case over to the FBI. The Williams family met with investigators on Monday after the department’s initial visit over the weekend. FBI Special Agent Steve Secor confirmed that the department is investigating the fire with state and local officials, AP notes, but no suspects have been identified.
The neighborhood has rallied around the family; an online fundraiser on Monday received $30,000 in donations on their behalf, according to AP.
“My family tends to be fairly well-known in this community, particularly the church community. I like to think we have a good reputation here,” Emma Williams said, according to WISH-TV. “We try to be of service to others no matter who they are and care about people. To my knowledge we don’t have enemies and if I know the person that did this, I will be completely shocked.”