Six Miami firefighters have been terminated for allegedly placing a noose over the family photos of a black colleague, city officials said.
On Sept. 9, a lieutenant with the City of Miami Department of Fire-Rescue discovered that his family photos in the fire station had been defaced with "lewd and sexually explicit renderings," Fire Chief Joseph Zahralban said in a statement, describing the incident as a "hideous, distasteful act of hate."
The lieutenant, who had been with the fire department for 17 years, is black, according to the office of City Manager Daniel Alfonso.
Zahralban said he personally responded to the incident after it was reported.
"Appalled by my observation, I immediately requested the Miami Police Department investigate the matter and temporarily transferred all personnel assigned to that station, per our department policy," he said.
The investigation revealed that 11 members of the fire department had "some involvement with the incident," and they were relieved of duty, Zahralban said.
Additional evidence revealed that six of those individuals -- a captain, a lieutenant and four firefighters -- who were "directly involved" in the incident were swiftly terminated for "offenses surrounding egregious and hateful conduct," Zahralban said. The remaining five employees were relieved of duty with pay, Alfonso said in a statement.
Termination letters sent Wednesday identify the fired members of the department as William W. Bryson, Kevin Meizoso, David Rivera, Justin Rumbaugh, Harold Santana and Alejandro Sese.
"It is the policy of the Department of Fire Rescue to provide a workplace for all of our employees that is free from intimidation, threats or violent acts," Zahralban said. "Our department is a diverse organization rich in tradition and we hold Honor, Integrity and Respect for our fellow firefighters in the highest regard. These are expectations I place on myself, my staff and every individual under my command as we continue to stand ready to serve our community."
Personnel from the fire station where the incident occurred were initially transferred to other stations, Alfonso said.
The investigation into lesser involvement by others who were at the station in continuing, the findings of which could result in disciplinary actions ranging from suspensions to demotions, Alfonso said.
"City of Miami Fire Rescue is an ethnically and racially diverse department and one of the best in the country," Alfonso said. "The priority as first-responders is to work as a team to be of service to our community. We cannot and will not tolerate behavior that is disrespectful, hurtful and compromises the integrity of the department and the City of Miami."
The noose was fashioned with twine, the Miami Herald reported. Police had initially responded to the fire station on a potential case of vandalism but the probe turned into a civil investigation that was turned over to fire officials, the newspaper reported.
President of the Miami Association of Firefighters Freddy Delgado said in a statement that it expects all members "to be provided a safe, comfortable workplace" as well as "fair and complete investigations" and discipline "when warranted."
"We have not yet been provided with all the information that the city relied upon in making the decisions it did today," Delgado said. "We are very disturbed by the allegations and look forward to the opportunity to review all the facts."
Alfonso, Zahralban and Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado will be holding a joint press conference Friday at 10:30 a.m. from City Hall to discuss the issue.
© 2020 Cox Media Group