Police investigating racially offensive symbols as possible hate crime in Nassau

NASSAU, N.Y. (NEWS10) – Was a fire at a Rensselaer County home a hate crime? That’s what police in Nassau are trying to determine.

Laquan Madison says he believes the fire that left his detached garage in ashes, just feet away from where his young family slept, was intentionally set.

“From the way I perceive it, it’s like someone saying like, ‘Go,’ know what I mean?” he said.

Madison said he feels this way because of what he and first responders saw Sunday night.

“I saw the N-word right there,” he said. “I was told there was a swastika on the other side.”

In bold red spray paint, the ugly messages are now mostly melted away on the front and side of his Nassau home.

“I didn’t see it any other way,” Madison said. “Maybe it could have been a prank, but I can only see it one way.”

Madison said he first noticed something was wrong around 11 p.m. Sunday.

“I was going to the bathroom, and I saw the orange glow, and I saw the whole garage lit,” he described. “We grabbed the children and got out.”

The home on Cold Spring Avenue is where the truck driver and family man said he chose to raise his five children when he purchased it three years ago. He said he’s never had any problems with anyone in the quiet, rural neighborhood.

“We are investigating this as a hate crime,” Schodack Police Chief Joseph Belardo said. “We have to take things like this seriously.”

Kyle Morrison, who lives down the street, said he is also very concerned if the fire was intentionally set.

“It’s a little weird,” Morrison said. “I wouldn’t expect someone to even intentionally do something like that around here because everyone is nice and quiet around here.”

“It’s home to us,” Madison said. “We’re staying. Why would I let somebody [scare me]? I mean, if you want me to go, it’s better for you to come and ask me as opposed to doing some foolishness like this.”

Chief Belardo said they don’t have any suspects, yet. He’s also waiting to hear from fire investigators on the cause and origin of the fire.

On Tuesday, the NAACP issued the following statement:

“In light of the recent fire and symbols of hate against an African American family in Schodack, New York, the Albany NAACP and the Albany Law Enforcement Reconciliation Team [ALERT] issues this statement.

As we call for a thorough investigation by Law Enforcement, the Albany NAACP and ALERT has begun an investigation of its own to ensure that everything possible is being done to get to the bottom of this crime. As the perpetrator is identified and arrested, we will make certain that they are tried to the fullest extent of the law.

This act is an example of the brazen spirit of racism that has touched various cultures in increasing manner in recent months. We are prepared to take legal, legislative and community action against any acts of hate that threaten to destroy and degenerate our society. Although we know racism exists, it becomes more threatening when those in our own community is affected.

Today, we visited the crime scene and spoke with various police agencies to gather as much information as we can. Although all evidence points to this as being a “Hate Crime” we will reserve judgment until the investigation is complete.

As President of the NAACP and Founder of ALERT, Pastor David Traynham, I met with Schodack Police Chief, Joe Belardo, who assured me that they are doing all they can to uncover the entire truth. The Schodack Police Department is the Lead Investigating Agency. They are being assisted by the New York State Police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation at this point. Should this prove to be a hate crime, we will be advocating for the Department of Justice to intervene as well.

As the investigation continues, we assure Lequan and Jennifer Madison as well as their five children that they are not alone.

The time is at hand for racism in all its forms to be addressed and stopped. Our great nation embraces people of all races, religions and colors. We will stand with African Americans, Jewish people, Muslims and people of every culture, against all acts of hatred.

Hate crimes have been a Federal Offence since 1968 and we will ensure that justice is served against anyone who perpetuates such an act.”

If you know anything about the fire, you are asked to call Schodack Police at (518) 477-8077.

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