Althea Bernstein Madison, Wisconsin biracial woman alleged to be set on fire by four white men in possible hate crime as she come to a red light while driving.
Four white men allegedly set a biracial woman on fire after spraying her with lighter fluid in a possible hate crime attack in Madison, Wisconsin, on Wednesday morning.
Althea Bernstein, 18, told police she was driving with her window down near the Wisconsin state Capitol at about 1 a.m. when she stopped at a red light and heard a man call her a racial epithet, ABC7 Chicago reported.
One of the men then sprayed her with liquid — which police believe was lighter fluid — and threw a flaming lighter at her, according to the report.
She drove away from the men and was able to put the flames out. Bernstein then drove home, where her mother encouraged her to go to the hospital.
Bernstein was treated for second and third degree burns and was physically doing well Thursday, WKOW reported.
‘And my neck caught on fire….’
‘I was listening to some music at a stoplight and then all of a sudden I heard someone yell the N-word really loud,’ Bernstein told Madison 365 in an interview. ‘I turned my head to look and somebody’s throwing lighter fluid on me. And then they threw a lighter at me, and my neck caught on fire and I tried to put it out, but I brushed it up onto my face. I got it out and then I just blasted through the red light … I just felt like I needed to get away. So I drove through the red light and just kept driving until I got to my brother and Middleton.’
Police are investigating the attack as a hate-crime, authorities said.
‘Here’s a young lady that was minding her own business and somebody decided to set her on fire, and it’s unacceptable,’ Michael Johnson, the Bernstein family’s spokesman, told the ABC channel.
‘And so she has burns to her face, burns to her neck,’ Johnson said.
‘I think her mom and her dad are worried about her mental well-being and the scars that are going to be on her,’ he added.
Johnson said the alleged attack is an escalation of racial tensions felt all across the country.
‘Somebody tried to cause bodily harm because of the color of their skin, and I think all of these things that are happening across the country and right here in our back yard, is just unacceptable and where is the respect for humanity?’ he said.
The attack came as protests raged in the city, with demonstrators toppling statues in the city. No arrests have been made.