Kenneth Walker is the only black volunteer firefighter on the North Tonawanda, New York, fire department. In 2016, you wouldn’t think his race would matter, but you’d be wrong. On Monday, Kenneth Walker says he found a letter stuffed in his home’s mailbox. The contents of the letter directed at the black volunteer firefighter were disturbing to say the least.
According to Walker, the letter demanded that he quit his job as a volunteer firefighter. On top of that, whoever left it in his mailbox also wanted him out of town. The anonymous letter left in the the mailbox of North Tonawanda’s only black volunteer firefighter Kenneth Walker also used the N-word repeatedly, saying that his race meant he couldn’t be a firefighter and that he was unwanted in the small, upstate New York city.
“[Expletive deleted] are not allowed to be firefighters. No one wants you in this city.”
While Kenneth Walker was understandably upset and shaken up by the threatening letter full of racial slurs and hate, as CNN reports, the volunteer firefighter didn’t let the threat interrupt his life or his plans. On Wednesday, however, while Walker and his family were away from home, the anonymous threat was acted upon.
A fire erupted at the volunteer firefighter’s apartment, and it didn’t take long for police and fire officials to determine that it was no accident. The home of Kenneth Walker was the site of an arson fire. Local Fire Chief Joseph Sikora reported that the Walker family lost nearly everything they owned in the fire, including their two pet cats which were killed in the blaze. Fortunately for the family, because they were away, they were all unharmed.
Fairly quickly, investigators zeroed in on a suspect believed to have started the arson fire at the home of Kenneth Walker; Matthew Jurado was arrested on Thursday. According to authorities, the suspect in the fire that broke out at the residence of the town’s only black volunteer firefighter admitted to setting the fire. However, he denied that he was the one to have put the threatening, racist note in Kenneth Walker’s mailbox on Monday.
Matthew Jurado is a firefighter himself and a former colleague of Kenneth Walker.
First look at 39-yr-old Matthew Jurado. He's accused of torching home of volunteer firefighter, Kenneth Walker. pic.twitter.com/Exi2FWTNpt— 7 Eyewitness News (@WKBW) August 5, 2016
The suspect in the arson at Kenneth Walker’s home pleaded not guilty via a judge and is being held on $50,000 bail. Local law enforcement are still investigating his connection to the hate letter that was placed in the black volunteer firefighter’s mailbox.
“At this point, we have a name that he provided us. However, we are still looking at the possibility that it is in fact he who wrote the letter. It could be this other person but that will be determined at a later date.”
We all stand united behind volunteer firefighter, Mr. Kenneth Walker, of North Tonawanda in the face of unacceptable bigotry.— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) August 5, 2016
In the aftermath of the almost unthinkable crime, neighbors have circled their wagons around Kenneth Walker and his family. Because the fire destroyed almost all of the property the family had accumulated over the years, they have been left with next to nothing. The local community has rallied around the volunteer firefighter and have donated money, food, and clothing to the displaced Walkers.
“That was everything that we owned and we pretty much have to start all over. We have two young kids and trying to explain to our 4-year-old that we have to move and go to a different house, it’s going to be a change for her, for us.”
It’s not just locals that have reached out to support black volunteer firefighter Kenneth Walker and his displaced family. According to reports, an Orlando resident has offered to provide the traumatized family with a trip to Disney World during their time of need and distress.
According to one local, the horrifying note that was left in the Walker family’s mailbox has deeply offended many in the small New York town.
“The note was really enough to raise the ire of the community. I was born and raised here. This is not a racist community, nor has it ever been.”
To further assist that town’s only black volunteer firefighter through this tumultuous time, the community has planned a donation drive for Sunday between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. to benefit Kenneth Walker and his family.
[Image via Shutterstock]