Crime Watch 8

FBI investigating fire, racial slur at Black Indiana councilman’s home

CONNERSVILLE, Ind. (WISH) — Tommy Williams and his wife were out of town when a fire swept through the first floor of their home. 

The Williamses are an interracial couple, and he is the only Black member of the Connersville City Council.

Tommy Williams says that someone spray-painted a racially derogatory word on their back porch and set the house on fire. 

“They tore the door down here to get to the room, I’m assuming,“ Williams said as he used a small camera provided by I-Team 8 for a short tour of the damage to his house.

“This is where I believe the fire actually started, which I’m not 100% sure. It is really dark in here because the boards. This is a bed that has been torched with all the clothes on here,” Williams said. 

He believes the fire was set intentionally. Whoever set the fire took all of his clothes out of his closet and set them on fire.  

The front bedroom sustained the greatest fire damage. There was significant smoke and water damage throughout the entire first floor.

However, the most significant damage was not the fire but spray paint.  “Someone at some point sprayed the N-word on the back patio. Pretty large, I would say. I would say over a foot tall each letter,” Emma Williams said.

The couple have been married almost 20 years. Tommy Williams was raised in the South, and his wife is a Connersville native. They are involved in the church, school and community, and neither of them can think of a single person who would do this to them.

Emma Williams said, “My family tends to be fairly well-known in this community, particularly the church community. I like to think we have a good reputation here. We try to be of service to others no matter who they are and care about people. To my knowledge we don’t have enemies and if I know the person that did this, I will be completely shocked.”

Neighbors first noticed the fire Friday morning and called the fire department right away. Tommy Williams was in Germany visiting family and his wife was in Florida when the fire started. Their twin boys were staying elsewhere. The family lost a cat and dog to the fire. Their other family dog, “Buddy,” was with the couple’s twin boys.

All morning Monday, a series of friends and neighbors came to check on the Williamses. Tommy Williams is retired from the U.S. Postal Service and is serving his first term on town council.

Tommy and Emma say they are both stunned to be victims of what is suspected to be a hate crime. Emma Williams says she feels safe in the neighborhood and says she has already forgiven whoever torched their house. “The outpouring of love and support to us during that time is more overwhelming than to me than this is,” Emma said. 

Connersville police turned the investigation over to federal investigators. The couple said they met with the FBI on Monday.

Steve Secor, FBI Indianapolis spokesperson, shared a statement with News 8 about the Connersville fire:

I can confirm that the FBI is assisting state and local authorities in this matter. At this time, the FBI cannot comment on any interviews which may or may not have been conducted by us or our local partners.