North Tonawanda, New York is reeling this week after firefighter Kenneth Walker received a racist, threatening letter warning him that if he didn’t step down from the department he would “regret it.”
Walker, the city’s only black firefighter, received the letter at his home on Monday, and reported the threatening note to his supervisor at the fire station that evening.
The department immediately contacted law enforcement to look into the letter. According to North Tonawanda Mayor Arthur G. Pappas, both local police, and the FBI are involved in the investigation.
“It shocked me,” Walker told KHOU. “I didn’t think that type of thing went on nowadays.”
Despite the letter’s calls for his resignation, Walker was adamant about staying with the department, telling the station:
I’m not going to be intimidated. I’m not going to change my habits of what I’ve been doing. I’m still going to be helpful in the community. I’m going to go on calls and hopefully this is just an isolated incident and if it turns out to be more, I’m sure that and confident that the North Tonawanda police department will handle it.
“He’s a good guy, a good worker,” Fire Chief Joseph Sikora told The Buffalo News on Tuesday. “This is something I never thought I would have to deal with as a fire chief and it really has got me upset. I couldn’t apologize enough. We’ll help him any way we can.”
However, on Wednesday morning, just two days after receiving the letter, Walker’s home mysteriously caught on fire.
NBC affiliate WGRZ reports that Walker, his wife, and two children are safe, though they lost two pet cats and all of their possessions.
At North Tonawanda’s Common Council meeting on Tuesday, Mayor Pappas was adamant in his support for Walker and his family.
“Needless to say we are appalled by this situation as it does not represent what the City of North Tonawanda stands for,” Pappas reportedly said. “I as mayor and the Common Council will not tolerate this type of behavior in our community. Any threats against our police, fire or other personnel are taken very seriously, as it is for all of our citizens.”
Speaking with WGRZ’s Claudine Ewing outside what once was his home on Wednesday, Walker described himself as a “low key guy” who handles things “with respect.”
“It’s sad that someone is so offended by my presence that they feel the need to burn my house down.”