Arson Fire May Have Been Race-Related

Ed Drantch, WIVB (Buffalo), June 8, 2012

The FBI now believes an arson fire in Buffalo’s Old First Ward may have been a hate crime. Upon hearing the news the fiery crime may be rooted in racism, a neighbor gave a stunning reaction.


Federal prosecutors stop short of calling this a hate crime, but continue to look for evidence to prove it as such. They have been investigating the Mackinaw Street fire for more than a year.

“The property owner and the victim was a refugee that had fled oppression and had immigrated to the United States in pursuit of the American dream,” said Frank Christiano, Resident Agent in Charge of the ATF.

Fifty-eight-year-old Michael Fijal of Buffalo was charged with arson and is awaiting trial. Prosecutors say he paid someone to purposely set the empty building on fire. {snip}

Now authorities say they’re looking for more evidence to prove race may have been a motivating factor. {snip}


We wanted to know if residents believed race played a role in the crime. One neighbor, working on repairing a home damaged in last year’s fire, had some comments that may shock you.

“I think that if people just stayed on their own side of town in their own neighborhood that things like that wouldn’t happen,” the man said. “Every race and color has their own section of Buffalo, so if they just stay in their own neighborhood, things like this wouldn’t happen.”


The man stated, “People in these neighborhoods don’t want those type of people moving down here and destroying the property value. So when things like that happen, it shouldn’t such a shock.”

We asked the man what he meant by “those types of people.” He responded: “Minorities. African Americans.”

We asked the man why he holds these opinions.

He answered, “Because I own a home and I see what happens when they move into the neighborhood. Property value goes down, kids on the corner, crime goes up. The east side used to be a beautiful place; look what they did to that.”


{snip} We asked the resident if he thinks there’s anything wrong with what he had said.

“I don’t feel there’s anything wrong with it. A lot of people would feel wrong about it, but I don’t.”


Here is the full interview:


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