Buffalo police have a suspect in custody in the arson of a black firefighter's apartment—and he's no stranger. Police say former firefighter Matthew Jurado, 39, who lives across the street from Kenneth Walker, has been charged with second-degree arson after he admitted to starting the blaze on Wednesday, reportedly in the family's living room, reports Buffalo News. Jurado, however, denied writing a racist, threatening letter Walker received days earlier. He instead gave police the name of a person he said had written it. Walker's uncle describes the development as "mindboggling" because his nephew trained with Jurado. "Kenneth kind of thought of him as a friend."
Walker's wife says Jurado actually helped her husband join North Tonawanda's Gratwick Hose Volunteer Fire Co. However, the North Tonawanda Times reports Jurado was "blackballed" by the company after he was fired from Live Hose Company in July, apparently because he lacked the right training. Jurado—whose Facebook page is filled with references to firefighting—was spotted at the scene of the fire and his girlfriend was the one to call 911, say officials and relatives. "I'm not going to be intimidated," Walker tells WKBW. "I'm not at this point going to resign from doing my job." Some $88,000 has been raised for the family, which lost two cats and all of their belongings. (Read more Buffalo stories.)