Wisconsin woman set on fire by four white men, police say

Althea Bernstein says the men yelled a racial slur at her in an incident that is being investigated as a hate crime

(Credit: Bernstein family)

A biracial woman says she was doused with an accelerant when she came face to face with four white men at an intersection in Madison, Wis. The Madison police department has now launched a hate crime investigation.

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Althea Bernstein, 18, an EMT studying to be a paramedic and firefighter was at a stoplight in downtown Madison, a city about an hour and a half from Chicago, when she saw four white males who she believes were intoxicated according to WMTV. At the time she was attacked around 1 p.m.,  protests around the arrest of local activist Yeshua Musa were happening nearby reported Madison365.

The men yelled a racial slur and then threw some kind of liquid from a spray bottle into the car through Bernstein’s driver’s side window. Then, they followed that by tossing a lighter, already aflame, into the car.

“I was listening to some music at a stoplight and then all of a sudden I heard someone yell the N-word really loud,” she told Madison365.

“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’s [home].”

Bernstein says while she was able to put out the flames, she was treated for burns at a local hospital after recounting the incident to her horrified mother. She urged her daughter to drive to the hospital.

(Credit: Althea Bernstein)

The Madison Police Department confirms that Bernstein will need further treatment for her injuries and is investigating the incident as a hate crime. They are in the process of obtaining surveillance camera footage in the area to see if the alleged assault was caught on camera.

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The Bernstein family says that they have not authorized a GoFundMe that has been set up and asked for privacy while Bernstein recovers from her injuries. They added they don’t require financial support but the 18-year-old asked for those concerned to “Sign the petition, support the movement and support Black lives.”

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