An arsonist with an apparent racist’s agenda is blamed for a nighttime fire at a rural home in upstate New York where a couple and their five children narrowly escaped.
Investigators found a Nazi swastika and a racial slur spray painted on the residence of Laquan and Jennifer Madison, who are black, when they responded to the fire in the small community of Schodack, in southern Rensselaer County, New York.
Laquan Madison recalled seeing an “orange glow” when he got up to use the bathroom shortly before midnight Sunday, according to media reports.
“I screamed my wife's name … and we all got out,” he told reporters Monday when he briefly returned to view the charred rubble, the Albany Times Union reported in today’s editions.
“It's not going to force me to move,” Laquan Madison added.
The garage, which did not have electricity, was destroyed by the fire, which spread to the adjoining residence causing exterior damage, according to investigators who have classified the arson fire as a hate crime. A damage estimate wasn’t available.
Madison, 31, expressed thankfulness that he, his wife and their five children, all under 9, including a newborn, were able to safely escape the fire. The family’s goats and chickens also were saved.
The homeowner told the Albany newspaper that while he’s not forgiving the arsonist, “people are going to be who they are. My hope is they understand life is not a joke. You can't toy with people.”
Jennifer Madison said she experienced a similar hate crime several years ago when she lived in Nassau County, New York.
“This is our home. This is where we live,” Jennifer Madison said. “We're OK. This is just something I accept. This is the world that we're living in.”
Schodack Police Chief Joseph Belardo said the family was emotionally traumatized by the incident which he called a hate crime that occurred “out of the blue.”
The family has lived in the house for three years and has “good relationships with their neighbors,” the chief told the Albany newspaper.
“Whoever did this will be facing some very serious charges,” the police chief said. There have been no arrests.
Hate crimes are “not something that happen very often out here,” said Beldaro, who couldn’t recall such a case in the community in the past 20 years.