Not guilty plea for NT man accused of setting volunteer firefighter’s home on fire

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NORTH TONAWANDA, N.Y. (WIVB) – Two days after the arson fire that destroyed a volunteer firefighter’s home, the man police say is responsible was arraigned in city court.

Matthew Jurado, 39, is charged with 2nd degree arson, a class B felony, in connection with Wednesday’s fire at the Oliver Street home of Ken Walker, a black firefighter who received a threatening, racist letter Monday, demanding he resign from the fire service.

According to court documents News 4 obtained Friday morning, Jurado told police he put a plastic bottle full of lighter fluid on Walker’s couch and lit it.

Those court documents show Jurado initially told police he discovered the fire after Walker asked him to check the back door on his home, thinking it may have been left unlocked.

In that initial statement, Jurado was asked whether he thought the fire may have to do with the threatening letter Walker had received. Jurado answered: “It could. It might be.”

Jurado denies having written the threatening letter, and police say he pointed the finger at someone else for that crime. That is still under investigation.

In regards to the arson fire, documents show Jurado told police, “It wasn’t racial, nothing Iike that. I was pissed about the Fire Department.”

Jurado had been a member of a different volunteer department, but was suspended after he didn’t complete the necessary training. Walker told police Jurado had asked him to get an application for the Gratwick Hose Volunteer Company, where Walker was a member. Walker said he texted Jurado back on July 22, 2016, telling him he couldn’t get the application because “they won’t let you join after what happened. You can’t even join as a social member. “

The prosecution says Jurado knew someone was sleeping inside the four unit apartment building when he set the fire, justifying the 2nd degree arson charge. Two of the Walkers’ cats were killed, but no one else was hurt.

The judge on Friday issued an order of protection for the Walkers after entering a not guilty plea for Jurado, who does not have an attorney at this point.

Jurado was taken to the Niagara County Jail and ordered held on $50,000 bail until his next court appearance on August 11 at 1:30 p.m. Jurado is expected to submit an application for representation by a public defender at that time.

He posted bail on Monday.

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