A black firefighter in Upstate New York whose home was torched just two days after receiving a racist letter was shocked to find out the man suspected of the arson was a neighbor and a former firefighter.
Matthew Jurado, 39, confessed to authorities that he set Kenneth Walker’s house on fire in retaliation for being removed from his job as a volunteer firefighter, reports New York Daily News. Jurado was recently terminated from the Live Hose Co. No. 4 volunteer fire department because he wasn’t properly trained. Jurado and Walker both trained together at two separate departments in North Tonawanda. Jurado says he torched Walker’s home in retribution for losing his job.
“It was not race related, but rather he was upset with the fire department because he has recently been removed from the volunteer fire department,” said police.
Although Jurado denies responsibility for the racist letter, he says he "knows who wrote it."
Authorities told WGRZ that Jurado didn't want to say who wrote the hate-filled letter.
Walker received a letter in his mailbox on Aug. 1 threatening that if he didn’t quit his job as a volunteer firefighter, he would “regret it.” The letter used the n-word twice. Two days later, Walker’s house was set ablaze, leaving him and his family homeless.
Walker’s two young daughters weren’t inside the house when the fire occurred, but the family lost two cats and all their belongings. Walker and his wife were both at work at the time.
Robert Sands, Walker’s uncle, told Buffalo News that Jurado was a “friend” to Walker and verified that the two had trained together in the fire academy, but worked in different departments.
Sands says he saw Jurado at the scene of the fire. Jurado’s girlfriend called 911 to report the blaze to police.
“I believe I talked with him,” Sands said. “His girlfriend was there. It’s really mind-boggling.”
Sands said Walker “is really relieved” that someone has been arrested for the crime but “part of him is hurt because he trained with this guy at the fire academy and he’s a neighbor ... Kenneth kind of thought of him as a friend.”
Shawn Moynihan, a fellow volunteer firefighter, started a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for Walker and his family. The page has raised more than $107,000 of the $120,000 goal so far.