Madison Area Crime Stoppers offering $5,000 reward for information regarding hate crime investigation

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Althea Bernstein; photos courtesy family and Madison365

MADISON, Wis. — Madison Area Crime Stoppers are offering a $5,000 reward for any information that leads to an arrest and conviction in a recent hate crime investigation.

According to a release from Madison police, 18-year-old Althea Bernstein was stopped at about 1 a.m. at a red light on West Gorham Street near State Street when she heard someone yell a racial epithet. She noticed four white men outside, the release said. Bernstein told police one of the men used a spray bottle to spray liquid on her face and neck. Bernstein said a flaming lighter was then thrown at her. The lighter caused the liquid to ignite, police said.

“Our family is saddened at what happened to Althea and the unprovoked attack on her body,” read a statement from her family. “At this time, our family is asking everyone to respect our privacy as Althea is recovering from the burns on her face and neck. Our family have asked the Boys & Girls Clubs CEO to serve as the contact for our family. The story on Madison 365 accurately depicts her experience and we feel it’s in the best interest of Althea to heal and to seek treatment.”

Hospital staff believe the liquid was lighter fluid. The woman was treated for burns and will need to return for follow up care, the release said.

Investigators are looking at surveillance images to see if the assault was captured on camera, according to the incident report.

In an interview, interim police Chief Vic Wahl said, “Obviously it’s a high priority for the department and we are going to put a lot of resources into doing a thorough investigation and trying to identify the people involved so we can take appropriate action.”

Those with tips are asked to call the Madison Area Crime Stoppers at 608-266-6014 or by submitting a tip online at