Police in a Buffalo suburb said Thursday that a recently fired firefighter has admitted to starting a blaze that badly damaged the home of an African-American ex-colleague who recently received a threatening racist letter.
North Tonawanda officials told the Buffalo News that Matthew Jurado, 39, had been arrested and charged with second-degree arson in connection with the fire at Kenneth Walker's apartment.
Police said Jurado, who lives across the street from Walker, denied writing an anonymous note that told Walker he should resign his position by the end of this week or he would "regret it." The letter contained two uses of the n-word.
Investigators told the News that Jurado gave them the name of a person he said wrote the letter, but they were still considering the possibility that Jurado wrote it himself.
Police officials said Jurado and Walker had trained together and noted that Jurado was "was upset about being removed from the fire department."
"Kenneth is really relieved, but part of him is hurt because he trained with this guy at the fire academy and he’s a neighbor," Walker's uncle, Robert Sands, told the paper. "Kenneth kind of thought of him as a friend."
Walker, his wife and two daughters were not home at the time of Wednesday afternoon's blaze, which occurred two days after he received the letter. However, the apartment was badly damaged and the family's pet cats were killed.
Local residents and business have donated money, clothes and toys to the Walker family, who are currently staying with relatives.