KEY POINTS

  • Wisconsin Police puts 18-year-old biracial Althea Bernstein’s case as a high priority
  • Four white men sprayed liquid and threw a flamed lighter on her face
  • She was only waiting for the red light in her car when she was attacked, and she’s now recovering from third-degree burns

The Wisconsin Police has opened an investigation into a potential hate crime involving an 18-year-old biracial woman, who was set on fire by four white men.

Interim Police Chief Victor Wahl told the press that detectives are looking into the case of Althea Bernstein, an EMT from Madison, Wisconsin, who was attacked on Wednesday (June 24) at 1:00 a.m., as she was waiting by the red light.

"It’s a high priority for the department, and we are going to put a lot of resources into doing a thorough investigation and trying to identify the people that were involved so we can take appropriate action,” Wahl said, as his detectives are reviewing surveillance cameras on the scene.

On the early morning of her attack, Berstein allegedly heard one of the men yelling a racial slur, and they tried to spray liquid on her face through her car's window, as per the police report.

The men, then, threw a flaming lighter at her, so she patted the flames and frantically drove home. She and her mother later went to the hospital to get treatment for her third-degree burns, where they were told that the liquid may have been lighter fluid.

Wahl said that the men responsible for the attack might face "charges of a hate crime, attempted homicide and recklessly endangering safety."

Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway said that she was able to speak with the victim and her family to express her sympathies. She also reached out to the police to "use all available resources to pursue the perpetrators as quickly as possible."

"This hate crime is one of multiple recent downtown incidents where people’s safety and lives have been at risk. It is completely unacceptable and should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law," the mayor said in a statement.

Bernstein, who is recovering at the hospital and may eventually need plastic surgery, said in her interview with "Good Morning America," Friday (June 26), that she hopes the men who attacked her will see the response of the public.

“They know that they hurt me and that this is something that’s going to affect me for a while,” Bernstein said. “And I really hope that they choose to improve themselves.”