CONNERSVILLE, Ind. — The FBI is conducting a hate crime investigation in Connersville after a city council member's home caught fire Oct. 29.
Councilman Tommy Lee Williams, Jr., his wife and children were visiting his son in Germany at the time of the fire, but his two pets were killed.
Investigators said they found a racial slur spray painted in black letters on the back porch of the home.
Williams told 13News he couldn't eat or drink after finding out what happened.
"The first thing that went through my mind was, 'Did I upset anyone?' and 'Why would they do this?'" Williams said. "I felt vandalized that someone would do that to my wife and three boys. It's kind of sad that someone would do this."
"This one is particularly shocking," said Edward Ahmed Mitchell, national deputy director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, "obviously, because of the murders of the animals involved, and the fact that the person explicitly painted the N-word on the councilman's house, leaving no doubt about why this happened. It's an utter act of cowardice, but sadly, not shocking in this day and age."
Mitchell said racism is a problem that sadly still exists in America.
"Racism is not only the original sin of this country, but it's one of the oldest sins that exists, this belief that some people are better than others because of how they look. That's a hard ideology to get rid of, especially in our country," Mitchell said.
It's important communities build bridges to keep each other safe.
"It's important for the local community to not become afraid, to not become victimized. Rather, it's important to come together in times like this to show solidarity with each other. To let one another know that hate cannot win in this environment. Again, education — the best vaccine against discrimination," Mitchell said.
Williams was elected to the Connersville City Council in July 2020 and said it might have something to do with that.
"Pray for that individual that he or she or them seek help for being able to try and hurt someone like that and kill animals and stuff. They have a really big problem," Williams said.
Community members are asking for help for the Williams family since they've lost everything. A GoFundMe site has been set up.
Williams told 13News the family plans to rebuild and is staying with family in the meantime.
Neighbors have organized a drive-thru drop-off at the National Guard Armory at 30th Street and Waterloo Road on the north side of Connersville on Tuesday, Nov. 2 from 6 p.m. until 8 p.m.
The items requested for family include:
- 2XL men's clothes
- Size 12 men's shoes
- King-size bed sheets and blankets
- Twin sheets and blankets
- Cookware and utensils
- Dishes and silverware
- Bath towels and wash clothes
- Personal hygiene products
- Household cleaning products
Anyone with information on the fire should call the Indiana Arson Hotline at 1-800-382-4628. Callers may remain anonymous.