Wisconsin Police Investigating Attack on Woman Doused with Lighter Fluid as Hate Crime

“Burn pain is something I can’t even really describe.”

The Madison Police Department is investigating an incident where Althea Bernstein, a bi-racial woman, was burned with lighter fluid by a group of white men.

What We Know:

  • The incident occurred Thursday at around 1 a.m. while Bernstein was driving and stopped at a red light. She told police she was driving with her windows down listening to music when she heard someone yell the N-word “really loud”. When she turned to see who it was, someone threw lighter fluid on her followed by a lighter.
  • Bernstein says, “My neck caught on fire and I tried to put it out, but I brushed it up onto my face. I got it out and then I just blasted through the red light … I just felt like I needed to get away. So I drove through the red light and just kept driving until I got to my brother and Middleton.”
  • Bernstein was treated a hospital and the doctors believe the liquid was indeed lighter fluid. She told the police there were four white men involved in the incident and that they were wearing “jeans and floral shirts”. Protests had taken place near the area where the incident occurred. Witnesses say there have been counter-protestors at the Black Lives Matter demonstrations who were seen in Hawaiian-style floral shirts.
  • Bernstein says she did not participate in the protests. She told police she was thankful to have survived the incidents. She said, “They had to pretty much scrub the skin off, which was extremely painful. Burn pain is something I can’t even really describe. I don’t know how to describe it. It was horrible.”

The Madison Police Department are asking that anyone who has information to contact the Madison Area Crime Stoppers at (608) 266-6014.




Kenne Lewis is a Digital Intern at Black News Alerts from Detroit, MI but currently residing in Atlanta, GA. She has B.A. in Broadcast Journalism and is currently pursuing her Master's degree in New Media Journalism.