Car Fire at El Cerrito Family's Driveway Investigated as a Hate Crime: Police

Police are investigating a hate crime in the East Bay after someone set a car on fire in the driveway of a black family. A hateful message was also left behind, according to police.

The incident occurred Tuesday night in El Cerrito. Victim Sarika Patel-Gregory woke up to breast feed her newborn baby when she noticed flickering through her front window.

"You can see the flames coming up and smoke just burning," she said.

Her husband, Greg Gregory, said he found two ignited Duraflame logs under the family's car.

"One was place directly underneath the gas tank," Gregory said.

Gregory used his garden hose to put the flames out.

Even more alarming, the couple said when police arrived they found a disturbing message of hate laying in the grass.

Patel-Gregory said the message read "Go away the 'N' word" and that it was something they would ever expect.

"The message included a race-based slur and when you combine that with the crime itself it's very clearly a race-based incident," El Cerrito police Capt. Paul Keith said.

The couple had surveillance cameras installed the same day and are now warning neighbors.

"It would be different if I lived in Mississippi," Gregory said. "Maybe I'd expect more of this, but I thought we're better here."

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