Threatening Racist Letters and Suspicious Fires Rattle Detroit Suburb

Residents of a Detroit suburb concerned over racist letters and recent fire.

ByABC News
July 9, 2010, 12:05 PM

July 9, 2010 — -- Police in the Detroit suburb of Eastpointe are trying to determine whether suspicious fires in a house are tied to letters sent earlier this week to black homeowners warning them to "move back" to the city or be killed "one by one."

The ominous letters arrived in mailboxes in a two block area of the middle class town on Tuesday.

The racially charged letter targeted African-Americans, tellling them, "You need to move back across 8 mile," using the name of a street that separates the suburban town from Detroit.

If they didn't move, they would be "killed one by one," the letter threatens. A copy of the letter was obtained by ABC affiliate WXYZ.

Fears were heightened by a pair of fires in one of the homes Thursday evening.

Interim Eastpointe Fire Chief Bob Niedermaier told that firefighters responded to a call at 6:17 p.m. on Sprenger Avenue. Firefighters found beds in flames in two bedrooms of the house, which had damaged the beds and dressers in each room.

By today, investigators had eliminated mechanical and electrical problems as potential causes, but fire investigators are trying to determine whether or not the fire was accidental or intentional.

"It's suspicious because you don't normally have a fire on top of a bed," Niedermaier said. The fact that the two fires were separated within the house is another reason the fire is suspect, he said.

Eastpointe police are trying to determine who sent the letters and are joined in their investigation by the FBI and the U.S. Postal Service. The letter was handwritten and each person received a photocopy of the same letter.

"Seventeen addresses were listed in the letter," Eastpointe Detective Lt. Scott Bourgeois told "Right now, we're unsure of how many of those letters were actually mailed out."

Det. Lt. Bourgeois described the neighborhood as "diverse," and noted that some of the people who had received the letter were not African-American.

What prompted the mailings remain a mystery, he said.

"There's no indication why somebody would send this letter out at this time," Bourgeois said.