SCHODACK, N.Y. (NEWS10) – A teenager has been arrested and charged for a Sunday night arson in Nassau.
A 15-year-old male is facing 10 charges, including Arson in the Third Degree, Criminal Mischief in the Second Degree, Burglary in the Third Degree, and seven counts of Reckless Endangerment in the First Degree. All are felony charges.
The fire took place around 11 p.m. Sunday at a detached garage on Cold Spring Avenue. It spread to the home while a family of seven slept inside.
Police were investigating the fire as a hate crime; however, police said the charges cannot be designated as a hate crime because of the suspect’s age, according to penal law.
The homeowner, Laquan Madison, told NEWS10 ABC he saw the N-word spray painted on his property, and he said first responders said they also saw a swastika. Police said they still consider the arson a hate crime “because of the circumstances.”
Madison is just happy his family is safe.
“I have my life and the life of my family,” he said. “What else can I ask for?”
He reacted to learning of the arrest.
“All in all, I don’t think the child really understands the seriousness of the situation,” he said.
Police Chief Joe Belardo credited the community for coming together to help track down the juvenile they believe is responsible.
“Everybody in the neighborhood was very cooperative, and they wanted to see this solved as much as we did,” he said.
The NAACP issued a statement about the fire on Tuesday:
In light of the recent fire and symbols of hate against an African American family in Schodack, New York, the Albany NAACP and the Albany Law Enforcement Reconciliation Team [ALERT] issues this statement.
As we call for a thorough investigation by Law Enforcement, the Albany NAACP and ALERT has begun an investigation of its own to ensure that everything possible is being done to get to the bottom of this crime. As the perpetrator is identified and arrested, we will make certain that they are tried to the fullest extent of the law.
This act is an example of the brazen spirit of racism that has touched various cultures in increasing manner in recent months. We are prepared to take legal, legislative and community action against any acts of hate that threaten to destroy and degenerate our society. Although we know racism exists, it becomes more threatening when those in our own community is affected.
Today, we visited the crime scene and spoke with various police agencies to gather as much information as we can. Although all evidence points to this as being a “Hate Crime” we will reserve judgment until the investigation is complete.
As President of the NAACP and Founder of ALERT, Pastor David Traynham, I met with Schodack Police Chief, Joe Belardo, who assured me that they are doing all they can to uncover the entire truth. The Schodack Police Department is the Lead Investigating Agency. They are being assisted by the New York State Police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation at this point. Should this prove to be a hate crime, we will be advocating for the Department of Justice to intervene as well.
As the investigation continues, we assure Lequan and Jennifer Madison as well as their five children that they are not alone.
The time is at hand for racism in all its forms to be addressed and stopped. Our great nation embraces people of all races, religions and colors. We will stand with African Americans, Jewish people, Muslims and people of every culture, against all acts of hatred.
Hate crimes have been a Federal Offence since 1968 and we will ensure that justice is served against anyone who perpetuates such an act.
While the teen faces 10 charges, Madison said he isn’t worried.
“I’m always safe,” he said. “I don’t sleep with one eye open. I sleep with both eyes closed.”
The property damage can be restored, and it’s his wife and five kids who matter most.
“It’s unforgiving, but at the end of the day, I have to keep moving for me and my family,” Madison said.
The case remains open. Police ask the public contact them with any information at (518) 477-8077.