The Madison Police Department is investigating the incident as a possible hate crime against an 18-year-old Althea Bernstein who was reportedly set on fire by a white man.
Bernstein is African American on her mother’s side and Jewish on her father’s side; she identifies as culturally Jewish according to a family spokesperson.
Bernstein was at a stoplight with her window down on Wednesday when the attack came from a car with four white men. She was sprayed with lighter fluid, called the “n-word” and set on fire, according to police reports.
The fire was set when a flaming lighter was thrown at her, police said. The incident occurred just a few blocks away from protests against racism and police brutality at the state Capitol. She was able to drive home but was treated for third-degree burns at a hospital. The incident has captured national attention. Bernstein works as an EMT and is studying at Madison College to be a paramedic and firefighter. “I don’t have any room for hate or holding grudges,” Bernstein said on Good Morning America. “So I hope these men see what happened to me and choose to make a change in their lives.”
‘“Remember what Amalek did to you on the way as you were coming out of Egypt, how he met you on the way and attacked your rear ranks, all the stragglers at your rear, when you were tired and weary; and he did not fear God. Therefore it shall be, when the Lord your God has given you rest from your enemies all around, in the land which the Lord your God is giving you to possess as an inheritance, that you will blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven. You shall not forget.’