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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Miami Fire Fighter Lt. Robert Webster is speaking a positive message after learning 4 former firefighters he worked with are facing charges.
In September of 2017, someone hung a noose around Lt. Webster’s family photo and drew phallic symbols on his pictures.
“In our communities, in our workplaces, organization and government we can not allow the worst among us to be the representation of the greatness and beauty that is us,” Lt. Webster said.
“The victim is not just myself and my family,” said Webster shortly after the incident. “It’s the people in the community who look like me and my family because if this is what they feel about me who wears the same uniform that they wear, how do they truly feel about these people whose homes they’re welcomed into at the time when they’re most needing someone to care for them.”
Lt. Robert Webster addresses the media:
State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said there was not enough evidence to charge it as a hate crime. “There was also no direct testimony as to who was actually responsible for placing that noose over the photograph,” she said.
Lt. Alejandro Sese is accused of witness tampering, a felony — along with petty theft and criminal mischief.
Former firefighters Kevin Meizoso, Justin Rumbaugh, and Harold Santana face criminal mischief charges. All of that is for allegations of defacing the pictures with phallic symbols — something the state attorney said was common practice in the firehouse.
“We have learned, been told by many, that in the fire department itself, there existed this culture, particularly in station 12 it seems, where this was a common practice drawing phallic symbols as a practical joke or display some kind of displeasure,” she said.
Even though there are no hate crime charges — Lt. Webster is pleased that someone is being held responsible.
“Today we are all here to say you don’t have to live as silent partners to unjust and evil,” Lt. Webster said. “Speak up and say enough and you will be heard and you will be joined by a chorus of others who have also had enough.”
State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle addresses the media:
The fired men believe they were unjustly punished. According to documents released by the city, all of those involved admitted their part in the photo vandalism but no one admitted creating or placing the noose, city officials said.
Although no one is being held responsible for the noose — Lt. Webster explains just how offensive it is.
“A noose to an African American is not a hanging, a noose to an African American is a lynching,” he said. “A lynching is done fo the sole purpose of creating fear, humiliation and degrading someone, to keep them in their place remind them of where they belong.”
Sese turned himself into the jail. The others were all given notices to appear in court.
Lt. Alejandro Sese, and were terminated by the city for an incident in September 2017.
On Wednesday afternoon, Sese’s attorney, Pablo Tamayo released the following statement:
“Mr. Sese is a United States military veteran who has served his country with distinction and dedicated his life to public service. The investigations conducted by the City of Miami Fire Department and Police Department over the last 17 months specifically found that Mr. Sese had NO involvement or knowledge of a noose being placed on the desk of Lt. Robert Wester. Mr. Sese finds such a racist act reprehensible, and condemns anyone who could have done such a thing. From the onset, Mr. Sese has fully cooperated with the City of Miami’s investigations and has been nothing but open and truthful. Mr. Sese is not a racist and all of those who have known him throughout his life know that any statement to the contrary is simply false.”
“Nevertheless, over the last 17 months, Mr. Sese’s name has been unfairly and publicly smeared. He welcomes the opportunity to defend himself in court against these false criminal charges filed against him, and to begin the process of restoring his outstanding reputation.”