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Police, FBI Probe Firebombing of Black in White Neighborhood

February 18, 1987

CHICAGO (AP) _ A black teacher’s house was firebombed two weeks after she moved into a predominantly white neighborhood, and the FBI and police were investigating whether it was a racially motivated incident.

″We are treating it as a racially motivated bombing. We’re giving the area special attention,″ Police Lt. Michael Halko said of Tuesday night’s firebombing of the Southwest Side home of Dorothy Stirgus.

A neighbor reported hearing glass shatter before seeing two males near the 1 1/2 -story brick home of Ms. Stirgus, Halko said. Witnesses didn’t know the race or ages of the males.

Ms. Stirgus, 54, was unhurt Halko said.

″We don’t know the reason for the bombing,″ said Sgt. Jerry Adams of the police Bomb and Arson Unit.

Police found small quantities of a flammable liquid and broken glass at the scene, but won’t know what the liquid was until laboratory tests are completed, he said.

Federal authorities also were looking into the case.

″I’ve spoken to the FBI and asked them to conduct a preliminary investigation to determine whether there’s been any violation of federal civil rights statutes,″ said U.S. Attorney Anton Valukas.

The Rev. Willie Barrow, executive director of Chicago-based Operation PUSH, was in a meeting and was not immediately available for comment.

Ms. Stirgus said she was in a bedroom when she heard breaking glass in the kitchen. She opened her bedroom door, saw flames and fled the house, she said.

″I have insurance to have it repaired,″ Ms. Stirgus said, adding that she intended to stay in the house.

″I have to be upset naturally ″ she said. ″But I think I will go back in.″

Two black families live across the street from the house, and have not been attacked or harassed, neighbors said. One of the families has lived there two years, neighbors said, while the other moved in last summer.

″There’s never been any trouble in this neighborhood,″ Anne Seefeldt, a white neighbor, told a reporter. ″This is just such a shame.″

The city’s Southwest Side has had a number of firebombings of black homes and other racial incidents in recent years.

The incident came a week before the heated Democratic Primary between Chicago’s first black mayor, Harold Washington, and his white challenger, former Mayor Jane Byrne.

″We have a lot of elderly people in the neighborhood and they’re quite upset by this,″ Mrs. Seefeldt said of the firebombing.

Neighbors said Ms. Stirgus moved into the house two weeks ago and had kept to herself since then.

″There’s just no reason for this,″ said Anita Sullivan, an elderly next- door neighbor of Ms. Stirgus.

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