$10,000 reward for information
Investigating a racist attack reported by a bi-racial woman in the midst of last week’s riot in Downtown Madison, police are now offering reward money. MPD issued this statement yesterday (06-29-2020):
The Madison Police Department continues to devote significant resources into this investigation, with assistance from the FBI. Anyone with information is asked to contact Madison Area Crime Stoppers at (608) 266-6014 or by computer at P3Tips.com. There is now a $5,000 reward for any tips leading to the apprehension and conviction of a suspect(s) in this case.
A organization combatting anti-semitism is offering another $5,000.
Offering reward money often indicates that investigators are coming up empty. Authorities had hoped to find surveillance video that would verify Althea Bernstein’s claim that she was sprayed with lighter fluid lit by four white men during a Defund Police/George Floyd protest at about 1 a.m. Wednesday morning (06-24-2020).
‘Classic Wisconsin frat boys’ blamed
The victim said her attack occurred at the intersection of State Street and W. Gorham Street, six or so blocks from the fire bombing of the City County Building at about the same time, 1 a.m. Wednesday 06-24-2020. With charcoal lighter fluid as the accelerant in both instances.
A surveillance camera monitors that busy intersection (the well known restaurant Casa de Lara is on the SE corner). Sources say most of downtown Madison outdoors is on camera. For instance, authorities were able to release surveillance images of the molotov cocktail being thrown at the police chief’s office in the City County Building (shown below). Authorities are now describing the described location as “possibly” State and Gorham.
To news outlets, Ms. Bernstein, age 18, described her attackers as “classic Wisconsin frat boys.” She said that as she stopped at the intersection the four young men — apparently carrying a bottle of Kingsford charcoal lighter fluid on their walk up State Street — approached her open car window, sprayed her with the accelerant fluid, uttered a racial epithet, then tossed a flaming lighter into her vehicle. It is not known if police recovered a lighter from the young woman’s automobile. She did not report the incident to police until approximately 16 hours later. Ms. Bernstein reported second- and third-degree burns — the most serious kind.
In addition to coverage from the major national media networks and network TV morning shows, the incident has received international notice. Prince Harry and Princess Meghan placed a 40-minute call to Ms. Bernstein. Even the Times of Israel. As the case drags on, some non-mainstream Internet commentators are casting doubts on her story.
The Feds brought into this one, too
Madison Police have called in the FBI and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Increasingly, the feds are being called in to locally sensitive crimes. Most recently in Madison, it was federal authorities — not elected District Attorney Ismael Ozanne — who charged Devonere A. Johnson with extorting local businesses by threatening to unleash the rioters on them or get paid in beer, food and money. The FBI has also been called into other high-profile hate crime cases around the country in recent years, including the Jussie Smollett and Bubba Wallace NASCAR cases.
Sources say police have an active suspect in the fire bombing of the City County Building. In surveillance video image, six individuals surround a seventh who is in the act of tossing a fiery object at the building. Perhaps one of them is talking.