UPDATE: Dubuque Co. Sheriff investigating hate crime - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

UPDATE: Dubuque Co. Sheriff investigating hate crime

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DUBUQUE COUNTY (KWWL) -

The Dubuque County Sheriff's Office is investigating a burglary and arson incident as a hate crime.

Deputies said around 6 a.m. Saturday, they were notified of smoke detectors going off in a Dubuque County home in the 17000 block of Alan Jackson Drive. Family members who live there discovered someone had entered the home and set fire to the kitchen rugs. They were able to put that out, but then they noticed racial slurs painted on the garage doors.

The homeowner declined to speak, but neighbors said Monday they're feeling a mix of fear, sadness and anger.

Matt Warthan lives next door to the victim's home and said he and his wife are friends with the adjacent family and is concerned about the crime.

"That much hatred: it's scary," he said, of whoever committed the crime. "They gained access to the house and lit the kitchen on fire. It's very scary to happen anywhere in the United States, but it hits home when it's right next-door."

He and his wife saw the early-morning remnants of the crime.

"The graffiti that was written on the home was very disturbing. I'm glad my kids can't read yet," Warthan said. As soon as investigators allowed him to, he enlisted help to clear his neighbor's garage doors of the offensive words.

"It's very concerning, because if someone has that much hatred to do something like that, in my opinion, they're capable of doing that to anybody, regardless of race," Warthan said.

"This will not be tolerated here," Lynn Sutton said. She's a Dubuque City Councilwoman and former member of the city's Human Rights Commission. She's also the first African American councilmember in the city and a lifelong Dubuquer.

"This type of crime was too deliberate and too serious, too dangerous, which is frightening in itself," she said, adding hate crimes can spark fear in the community.

"You cannot predict crime no matter what you do, but we can take the necessary steps to put things in order so that doesn't happen again," she said.

Getting the word out that hate crimes are unacceptable and intolerable, she said, is important.

"We have to call attention to it," Sutton said. "To ignore it would make it worse."

"Dubuque's a great community, and we need anyone with any information to contact the Sheriff's Department," Warthan said.

The State Fire Marshal's Office and the FBI Hate Crime Unit are also involved in the investigation.

If you have any information, call the Dubuque County Sheriff's Office or the Dubuque/Jo Daviess County Crime Stoppers at (563) 588-0714 or 800-747-0117 or visit the Website. Tipsters can remain anonymous, and information leading to arrest can result in a reward of up to $1,000.

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