BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) - Did a suspect torch an immigrant's home out of hate?
Federal authorities know the house fire in the Old First Ward was the dirty deed of a firebug. But now they want to know if it was a hate crime because the homeowner is from Africa.
An empty lot is all that remains at 179 Mackinaw Street. The house was torched back in May of last year. Right from the beginning, authorities thought it was arson. The homeowner is a refugee from the Congo, who bought the South Buffalo home to start a new life.
Back in January, a federal grand jury indicted Michael Fijal on two charges of arson. The 58-year-old Fijal is a community leader in the First Ward and people were shocked when he was arrested.
Laura Kelly of the First Ward Community Association said, "Michael Fijal is a community member and we wish him well and we'll let the judicial system take its course and we'll see where it goes from there. If anybody else, I understand in the newspaper this morning that they were asking community members to come forward with any information. If anybody has any information we hope they will come forward because the idea of such a heinous crime to happen in this community is just stunning to all of us."
Fijal and his attorney refused to comment. Federal authorities believe it was an arson-for-hire-scheme, as part of a racial hate crime.
The FBI is asking anyone with information to contact them. The investigation is still ongoing.
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