Community comes together after El Cerrito family targeted in hate crime

Thursday, March 3, 2016
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Community members came together Wednesday to support the young El Cerrito family who is the victims of a hate crime.

EL CERRITO, Calif. (KGO) -- Community members came together Wednesday to support the young El Cerrito family who are the victims of a hate crime.

Someone set fires under their car and left them a racist note. The victims in the case have an 89-year-old grandmother and a 2-month-old son living at home and they were all home at the time the crime was committed.

Sarika Patel-Gregory was up with her newborn son at 3 a.m. on Feb. 24 when she saw a flickering light outside.

"A huge fire behind this wheel, like flaming and you could see smoke coming from underneath there and it was really scary because it's right by the gas tank," Sarika Patel-Gregory said.

There were actually two Duraflame logs burning under the SUV. Her husband put out the fires and they called the police.

"They found the note on the lawn over here," Patel-Gregory said.

It was a note with a racial slur. Dozens of people, outraged by what police say is a hate crime, came to a human relations commission meeting.

"Whoever perpetrated this crime is outnumbered by the rest of us by thousands to one," said one man at the meeting.

Police are analyzing surveillance video offered up by neighbors and asking for more.

"One of the things we're looking for is to track how the suspect got to the scene of the crime, so the more people who have footage, even if it doesn't show anything, it's still good for us to know maybe that maybe a vehicle, or bicyclist, or pedestrian didn't pass by their house," said El Cerrito Capt. Paul Keith.

The Gregory family is grateful for the support as they struggle to feel safe in their home.

"To know that I have a two-month-old and this early in his life I'm feeling as though he's not safe, doesn't make me feel very good as a father," said El Cerrito resident Greg Gregory.

As police search for suspects the commission is planning a diversity forum.