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FBI assisting Madison police with hate crime investigation

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MADISON (WKOW) -- The Federal Bureau of Investigation is helping Madison police handle the investigation of an alleged hate crime that occurred Wednesday.

While waiting for a green light at the intersection of Gorham and State Street around 1 a.m., Althea Bernstein, 18, says four white men called her a racial slur, before attacking her and setting her on fire with lighter fluid. Bernstein is bi-racial.

A Madison police spokesperson confirmed the FBI's involvement to 27 News Friday.

Her driver's side window was down and she heard someone yell out a racial epithet. She told police she looked and saw four white men. One used a spray bottle to put liquid on her face and neck and then threw a lighter at her. The liquid went up in flames.

Bernstein said she drove forward and was able to pat out the flames. She drove home and her mother encouraged her to go to the hospital, according to police.

She was treated for burns and would need to continue to seek medial care for her injuries. Hospital staff think the liquid spray on her was lighter fluid.

Investigators are looking into the case and examining surveillance images to see if the assault could be seen on camera.

Anyone with information about this is asked to contact the Madison Area Crime Stoppers at (608) 266-6014 or by computer at

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