A New York state man has been charged with arson in connection with a blaze that destroyed a black firefighter’s apartment and killed two of his family’s cats.
Matthew Jurado, 39, is a neighbor of Kenneth Walker, a firefighter with a volunteer fire company in the city of North Tonawanda. Walker’s home caught opened fire on Wednesday two days after he received a racist, threatening letter telling him to quit the fire company or “he’d regret it.”
North Tonawanda police apprehended Jurado within 24 hours of the blaze, the North Tonawanda Times reports. They claimed that Jurado admitted to starting the fire, but he said it wasn’t racially motivated and that he did not write the threatening letter.
Jurado said his motive was related to a conflict involving the fire company, police allege. He was previously a member of a different volunteer fire company from the one where Walker runs, but was cut because he didn’t complete all the training, according to local news station WIVB. Jurado allegedly told police that he asked for an application for Walker’s fire company, Gatwick Hose, but Walker said it wouldn’t let him join after his experience with the first group.
He was charged with second-degree arson. Jurado did not have an attorney at his first tribunal appearance and the judge entered a “not guilty” plea for him.
Jurado requested an application for a public defender, but he didn’t say much else, Buffalo News reports.
Assistant District Attorney Joel Grundy told The Buffalo News that law enforcement is still investigating the racist note Walker received.
The firefighter’s wife, Amanda Walker, told the outlet she was in “disbelief” over the incidents. Jurado had been to their home and spent time with their children in the past, she added.
A GoFundMe account has raised more than $100,000 for Walker and his family, who were displaced after the flame. But he stated in a Facebook post that though he appreciates the supporting and kindness, the money is unnecessary and they don’t require any “special treatment.”
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