Screams and the alarming words, "Mom, the house is on fire," roused Roshon Williams from her sleep early Wednesday morning.
Leaping out of bed, the Antioch woman peered out of a window and saw flames just above her. Armed with a fire extinguisher, Williams and her son and daughter, who grabbed fire hoses, doused the fire, which charred a garage door.
Then, they noticed the vandalism.
On a street lined by matching beige-colored residences, manicured lawns and coiffed hedges, someone had graffitied N----- and a swastika on the Williams home's windows and door.
Investigators are now looking for the person or people who placed three Molotov cocktails outside the house so as to trap its inhabitants inside the burning structure. Along with causing the roof and some bushes to catch fire around 3:15 a.m., the suspect will also be held responsible for painting the racial slur and swastika on the Williams home, according to police.
Police said that the attack is being investigated as arson as well as a hate crime. With three adults and four young children sleeping inside the house, however, the person who set the fire could also face attempted murder charges, police said.
The Molotov cocktails were "deployed in a way that the potential intent was to block any emergency exits" that the Williams family could have used to escape, according to Vic Massenkoff, an investigator with the Contra Costa Fire Protection District.
If it wasn't for Williams' daughter waking up and alerting the rest of the family, it could have turned deadly, he said.
They are "beyond lucky," Massenkoff said, calling the family "extremely fortunate" because although shaken, no one was injured.
Security cameras installed on the exterior of the McCormick Court house showed a man walking up to the front of the building guided with "light from a cell phone," Williams said.
"That must be when they sprayed" the hateful messages, she said. "We saw him light three bottles right there on the sidewalk and proceed to throw them at the house."
Based on the security footage, Williams described the suspect as someone of "Caucasian descent" who was likely "prejudiced."
Williams said it's imperative "to find out who this person is so that I can bring them to justice because I haven’t bothered anybody. I don’t deserve this."
Neighbors were horrified, and hoped justice will be meted out.
"I’ve walked down the street, I’ve always seen different races, different nationalities, everybody is really friendly," said neighbor Kendrick Harrelson. "Everybody speaks to everyone ... This is shocking, it really is."
A stunned Williams said that the only people who live in the Antioch house on a "regular basis," include herself, her son and her grandson. The family doesn't "harm anyone," she stressed, adding, "I'm just surprised that this has come to my house."
Her son used a paint roller to cover up the slurs later in the day. He worked quietly, not displaying any outward reaction to the vicious blue-colored graffiti.
Meanwhile, Williams stressed that her plan is "to do whatever I can to protect my family. So no one better not cross my path."
Someone who knows the alleged perpetrator could identify him, Williams said. But without knowing the person, she could not.
Police are sifting through the surveillance footage and may release it at some point, they said.