Black Family's Home Burns in San Francisco After Racist Threats

Kevin A. Thompson
May 30, 2024

(Photo: iconic image of "Painted Ladies" homes in Alamo Square, where Black family was burned out of their home recently. By King of Hearts, Wikimedia Commons)

 A fire broke out in the home of Terry Williams while he was at the Mayor’s office discussing racist threats made to him personally. Terry arrived at home just in time to help rescue his 79-year-old mother who was still trapped inside.  

Terry Williams has lived in the home since birth, and has a dog-walking business in the same Alamo Square neighborhood. Mr. Williams’ father and three Rottweilers also escaped the blaze. Williams was well-known in Alamo Square by his walking of other residents’ dogs for many years.

At present, Terry, his parents and their three dogs have no permanent home. Neighbors held a block party with donation boxes to help the Williams family get new housing.  

Mr. Williams reported earlier this year that racist threats had been shouted at him during his daily dog-walking rounds. In early May 2024, someone left a package on his doorstep. Inside was a doll, with a photo of Mr. Williams pasted on, and with many anti-Black messages also pasted to the doll’s body.

This was the incident Terry had gone to City Hall to discuss on May 14, meeting with James Caldwell, the Mayor’s Chief Officer of Criminal Justice and Public Safety. Mr. Caldwell himself received a call about the fire while Mr. Williams was in his office. Mr. Caldwell said he personally drove Terry to the home, where the fire was engulfing the home.

Terry’s father had already escaped the blaze and was prevented by neighbors from running back in to save his wife.  Terry ran in instead, and was successful at saving his mother and her favorite of the three Rottweilers.

Fire investigators at the scene reported a “device” had been found at the scene and “rendered harmless.”

Police have already classified the doll-noose incident as a hate crime, but have not announced if the house fire will be also deemed a hate crime.

The GoFundMe for Terry Williams and family is


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Juliette Goodrich, Lauren Toms, Dave Pehling, “Fire in Alamo Square Was at Home of Man Targeted by Racist Threats,” May 22, 2024,

Ryan Curry, “Neighbors Support San Francisco Family After House Fire, Racist Messages,” May 27, 2024,

George Kelly, Garrett Leahy, “Fire Guts Home of San Francisco Dog Walker Targeted by Racist Threats,” May 21, 2024, the San Francisco Standard,