Miami’s fire chief on Thursday blasted six fired firefighters accused of draping a noose over a black colleague’s family photos, and released images of the “egregious and hateful” vandalism.
Photos of the scene at Fire Station 12, located on Northwest 46th Street near Charles Hadley Park, show that someone took a black lieutenant’s family photos out of their picture frames, drew penises onto the pictures, then reinserted them in their frames and placed them on a wood shelf next to a teddy bear figurine. Someone also hung a noose made of thin, white rope over one of the photos.
In a statement, Chief Joseph Zahralban described the lewd prank as “a hideous, distasteful act of hate” against a 17-year department veteran. Police were called to the scene and internal affairs handled the investigation, taking statements from 20 people under oath in what ultimately was treated as a civil investigation.
Eleven employees were placed on leave without pay following the Sept. 9 incident, and five remain under investigation and subject to potential discipline.
“This was immediately reported to my staff and as a result, I personally responded to the station. 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,” Zahralban said.
The incident, first reported by the Miami Herald, took place as Hurricane Irma’s outer bands began to lash South Florida. On Wednesday, Capt. William W. Bryson, and firefighters Kevin Meizoso, David Rivera, Justin Rumbaugh, Harold Santana and Alejandro Sese were fired.
Miami’s fire union has condemned the incident described by city officials in statements to the media, but has urged the public to reserve judgment until the details of the city’s investigation are released. Several fired firefighters reached by the Miami Herald have declined to comment, but NBCMiami reported Thursday that the firefighters are denying the allegations.
Zahralban and Miami’s mayor are expected to discuss the incident further during a Friday morning press conference at City Hall.