Wisconsin woman set on fire in possible hate crime, police say

MADISON, Wis. -- A Wisconsin woman was reportedly set on fire in what is being investigated as a hate crime.

The Madison woman is still in the hospital after she was attacked inside her car early Wednesday morning.

Althea Bernstein said four white men called her a racial slur, before attacking her, setting her on fire with lighter fluid. For Michael Johnson, the Bernstein family's spokesman and CEO of the Boys and Girls Club, he couldn't think of a more obvious example of a hate crime.

"And so she has burns to her face, burns to her neck," Johnson said.

He said Bernstein is physically doing well.

"But I think her mom and her dad are worried about her mental well-being and the scars that are going to be on her," Johnson said.

Bernstein told WKOW that the attack happened early Wednesday morning at around 1 a.m.

She said she was at the intersection when four white men in floral shirts yelled a racial slur, sprayed her with lighter fluid and threw a lit lighter at her.

"Here's a young lady that was minding her own business and somebody decided to set her on fire, and it's unacceptable," Johnson said.

Madison police said they are investigating the incident as a hate crime.

Johnson said this is an escalation of racial tensions felt all across the country.

"Somebody tried to cause bodily harm because of the color of their skin, and I think all of these things that are happening across the country and right here in our back yard, is just unacceptable and where is the respect for humanity?" he said.
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