Miami firefighters fired for hanging noose over black colleague’s family photo
Six Miami firefighters have been fired after someone hung a noose over a black colleague’s family photo and drew lewd images on pictures of his wife, mother and kids.
The terminations, handed down Wednesday, follow a police investigation into the September 9 incident at a city fire station. More than 20 people were interviewed under oath and nearly a dozen firefighters were investigated, including five who remain employed by the department and under scrutiny. Among those fired: William Bryson Jnr, the son of former Fire Chief William “Shorty” Bryson.
In a statement, Miami City Manager Daniel Alfonso acknowledged “sexually explicit and racially offensive conduct.” He said initially, personnel assigned to the station were transferred. He said 11 firefighters were relieved of duty with pay.
“We cannot and will not tolerate behaviour that is disrespectful, hurtful and compromises the integrity of the department and the City of Miami,” Alfonso said.
According to Jose Rodriguez, the police major in charge of internal affairs at the time of the incident, police initially responded to the incident as a potential case of vandalism but ultimately carried out the probe as a civil investigation that was turned over to fire department executives. Sources familiar with the case told the Miami Herald that someone created a noose out of twine and hung it over a family photo of an African-American lieutenant.
Then, several of his colleagues drew lewd pictures on several other photos, including one of his wife and one of his mother and his children, according to sources. Termination letters sent Wednesday said that firefighters “defaced several personal photos of a fellow firefighter with graphic and obscene phallic renderings.”
Along with Bryson, firefighters Kevin Meizoso, David Rivera, Justin Rumbaugh, Harold Santana and Alejandro Sese were fired Wednesday.
Sese came up with the idea of defacing the photos and retrieved them, according to the termination letters. Meizoso, Rumbaugh and Santana drew lewd, phallic images on the photos, and Rivera returned them to their picture frames. Bryson is accused of failing to stop the vandalism and of ignoring requests from subordinates to come forward and report the incident.
Investigators, however, could not determine who made the noose, according to sources.
Reached Wednesday, Rumbaugh and Sese declined interviews. Neither has hired an attorney.
“I apologise but I really have no comments today,” said Rumbaugh.
Attempts to reach the other fired men weren’t immediately successful.