Bi-racial woman burned in her car, MPD investigating hate crime

Woman says men threw lighter fluid, flaming lighter on her

· Jun 25, 2020 Tweet

Joey Reuteman/The Badger Herald

The Madison Police Department is investigating a hate crime after a bi-racial, 18-year-old woman was burned with lighter fluid at a stoplight early Wednesday morning, according to an incident report by MPD.

According to the report, the woman, identified by Madison365 as Althea Bernstein, stopped for a red light at the intersection of W. Gorham St. and State St. around 1 a.m. Wednesday morning. She had the window on her driver’s side rolled down, when four white men approached her car, and one yelled out a racial epithet. 

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The victim said one of them used a spray bottle to spray liquid on her face and neck, and then threw a flaming lighter at her, causing the liquid to ignite, according to the release. She was able to put out the flame and continued her drive home. 

Her mother encouraged her to go to the hospital, where she was treated for burns. Hospital staff identified the liquid as lighter fluid. According to the release, she will need to make follow-up visits for additional medical care.

Investigators are looking into surveillance images to see if the assault was captured on camera. Anyone with information on this crime is asked to contact Madison Area Crime Stoppers at (608) 266-6014 or by computer at

Updated June 26th at 6:37 to reflect the certainty of this act as a hate crime. 


This article was published Jun 25, 2020 at 12:30 pm and last updated Jun 26, 2020 at 6:38 pm


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