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Police, family saying little about investigation of alleged hate crime
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Police, family saying little about investigation of alleged hate crime

Lighter fluid attack

Althea Bernstein is shown in this undated family photo before she was allegedly attacked in Downtown Madison last month.

Nearly three weeks after an alleged racist attack on a biracial woman in Downtown Madison, police and the woman’s family are saying little to nothing about whether the authorities are any closer to identifying the perpetrators.

Althea Bernstein, 18, of Monona, told police she was stopped at a stoplight, possibly on West Gorham Street at State Street, at around 1 a.m. June 24 when she was approached by four white men, one of whom yelled a racial epithet.

One of the men allegedly sprayed her with lighter fluid through her open driver’s-side window and then threw a lit lighter or match at her, setting her face and neck on fire before she patted out the flames.

She described the men as looking like “frat boys” — two of whom were wearing “floral shirts” and blue jeans and two of whom were in all black and wearing masks. The man who allegedly sprayed her was wearing a “salmon-colored” floral shirt, she told police.

Asked for an update on the investigation, police spokesman Joel DeSpain on Monday pointed the Wisconsin State Journal to the online incident report in the case, which was last updated on June 30.

“I will continue to check if additional information can be posted,” DeSpain said.

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Acting Madison police chief Vic Wahl said in a statement Wednesday that the investigation “remains an open case and we are actively investigating with the assistance of the FBI.”

A spokeswoman for the Bernstein family, attorney Andrea Love Sumpter, said “law enforcement has been in regular communication” with her and the family.

“I have advised the family against making statements during an ongoing investigation, in order to avoid compromising the hard work of law enforcement officials,” she said in an email.

On Wednesday, she declined to answer questions about the investigation on behalf of the family.

The Los Angeles-based StandWithUs Center for Combating Antisemitism on June 30 announced it was offering a $5,000 reward for information in the case. It came on top of a $5,000 Crime Stoppers reward announced earlier.

Unlike in other unsolved cases, police have not released any images from surveillance cameras that might have recorded the attack or the assailants.

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