A former North Tonawanda, New York firefighter was arraigned in court Friday morning [August 5], after he was arrested for arson in connection with a fire that burned down the apartment of a Black man he had once trained with. Matthew Jurado, 39, [who is White] admitted to police that he had set the blaze as an act of revenge, after he was laid off from his position as a volunteer in the department. Wednesday's fire made headlines as it came two day's after the victim, Kenneth Walker, received a racist letter in his mailbox, which referred to him as a N****R and threatened repercussions if he did not resign.
Walker, who is the parent of 4-year-old and 6-month-old daughters, volunteers with the Gratwick Hose Co. as the town's only Black firefighter. Jurado had been working out of the Live Hose Co. No. 4, when he was let go due to inadequate training. By all accounts Walker and Jurado had supposedly befriended one another during their training together, leaving some to wonder how he could commit such an egregious act. “Part of him is hurt because he trained with this guy at the fire academy and he’s a neighbor," said Walker's uncle, Robert Sand, who claims to have seen and spoke with Jurado at the scene. "Kenneth kind of thought of him as a friend.”
Walker's wife and children were not home as the flames spread shortly before 12:30 p.m. By the time he'd arrived, residents of each of the building's four apartments had been displaced, and he was forced to receive the news that his two cats had been charred with his belongings. It has been learned that Jurado's girlfriend, whom Walker's uncle claims was standing alongside the perpetrator when they crossed paths earlier that day, was the one who contacted authorities to report the fire. Fellow volunteer firefighter Shawn Moynihan has created a GoFundMe page to help support the Walker family through the travesty, with the effort having nearly met it's $100,000 goal by press time.
Jurado has maintained that he carried out the act strictly out of anger over losing his job and denies that he is responsible for having written the racist letter Walker recovered on Monday night, although he told authorities that he knows who did. "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,” he reportedly told police. Jurado has refused to cooperate with authorities in their inquiry to find out who was responsible for the letter.
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