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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – City of Miami leaders are condemning the actions of six terminated firefighters who are accused of placing a noose on the desk of a black colleague and defacing family photos.
The Mayor, City Manager and Fire Chief stood apologized to the victim and his family.
“This incident has become national news,” said Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado at a news conference Friday morning. “It’s being published throughout the United States.”
Lt. Robert Webster discovered the racist symbol on his shift in Fire Station 12, the day Hurricane Irma hit. There was a hangman’s noose and sexual images drawn on his family photos.
The 17-year veteran spoke to CBS4 News on camera but asked that we do not show his face.
“The only thing I could think of at that time was initiate the process of contacting my superiors to let them know,” explained Lt. Webster.
Miami’s Fire Chief went to Station 12 at 2:30 a.m. and viewed the racist display in his room.
“When I arrived, I was disgusted and I was appalled by what I had seen,” said Miami Fire Rescue Chief Joseph Zahralban during Friday’s news conference.
Six firefighters, including a Captain and Lieutenant were fired.
Among those were Capt. William Bryson, David Rivera, Kevin Meizoso, Justin Rumbaugh, Lt. Alejandro Sese and Harold Santana.
Five more are facing discipline or demotion.
According to documents released by the city, the four terminated firefighters admitted their involvement in the hazing, but Capt. Bryson and Lt. Sese lied when interviewed. Sese allegedly urged others not to tell the truth, as well.
The city manager said the investigation continues, and more heads may roll.
“We are saddened today by the events that took place,” said Miami City Manager Daniel Alfonso. “The only thing I really want to say in the City of Miami, in the employment of the City of Miami, this behavior is not tolerated.”
The City will explored expanded sensitivity training for all employees.
The victim of all of this never saw it coming.
“When I first found out the names of who was involved, I never had negative reaction to them,” said Lt. Webster. “So my first question was why?”
The Fire Chief reached out to Webster and his family.
“I’d like to give you my sincerest apologies for this childish, insensitive and intolerable act,” said Chief Zahralban.
Lt. Webster says he is pleased with the way managers responded quickly and severely to the bigotry at Station 12.
Meanwhile, it is very difficult to fire a firefighter due to union rules and agreements. The fire union has already said it will fight the terminations, saying, in part “We are very disturbed by the allegations, and look forward to the opportunity to review all the facts.” The City Manager said an arbitrator might reinstate the six firefighters at a later date.