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North Tonawanda officials thank police for handling of arson

NORTH TONAWANDA – Just two weeks ago, the mayor and Common Council members expressed their anger over an anonymous racist letter that Gratwick Hose Company volunteer firefighter Ken Walker received in his mailbox.

Gratitude replaced that sentiment Tuesday during the North Tonawanda Common Council meeting.

“I want to publicly give kudos to our police department and fire department for the outstanding police work and emergency work that they did to solve the latest, unfortunate situation with the arson that took place on Oliver Street,” Mayor Arthur G. Pappas said at the meeting. “It was a very serious situation, and it was handled very, very quickly. I think we all made it clear, and it was my position and the council’s that we were not going to tolerate behavior in our city that was a danger to our population.”

Since that incident, neighbors jumped to Walker’s aid, and a viral gofundme page has raised more than $150,000 to benefit the Walker family. Hundreds came to Gratwick Hose to donate and support his family.

Pappas called the local and surrounding communities, “outstanding” for helping to solve the problem and turn it into a positive.

“North Tonawanda said to the world that a few bad actors do not define this community,” Alderman-at-Large Robert E. Pecoraro said.

Matthew Jurado, Walker’s neighbor and a former firefighter, has since been charged with arson, but he has denied sending the letter. That investigation remains open.

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