A firefighter recruit was fired and three others resigned after a noose was found hanging over the seat belonging to the only black recruit.
According to the Sun Sentinel, an investigation into the noose, which was found at the Pompano Beach Fire Training Center, wrapped up on Wednesday. Fire Chief John Jurgle said that he took quick action as soon as he learned about the racist symbol last month, discovering that the offensive, threatening gesture was directed at the only black recruit in a class of six.
“It’s a very serious, unfortunate incident that happened,” Jurgle said. “We’re professional firefighters. We’re not going to tolerate this kind of thing.”
The noose was found on June 7 during the recruits’ last day of training, Jurgle said, and Jurgle launched his investigation July 26, suspending all of the recruits from duty the following day with the exception of the victim, identified as Vilbert Green.
The fired recruit was identified as Matthew Reilly. Those recruits who offered their resignation amid the investigation were identified as Kerop Berberian, Geandy Perez and Austin Sovay.
Sovay insisted on Wednesday, “It wasn’t a noose. It was a fishing knot.”
I swear these bigots think we’re all idiots. A fishing knot. Right.
According to the report, on the day the noose was found, each recruit was assigned to complete a cleanup task. Green left the room to take care of his duties, but when he returned he found the noose dangling over his chair next to his name tag.
Green took a picture of it but decided not to do anything, according to Jurgle.
“He was not happy with what was done, but after taking the picture, he decided he didn’t want to do anything with it,” Jurgle said.
However, when Green showed the picture to another firefighter outside the class, things started to progress. That unidentified firefighter took offense at the racist gesture and attempted to talk to the other recruits about it.
“They told him they knew nothing of it,” Jurgle said.
Since nobody was owning up to their shitty behavior, the firefighter took the issue up with the captain in charge of training, who then took it to Jurgle.
“If I had an incident like this happen, it’s my duty to investigate it,” Jurgle said.
In the investigation, it was determined that Perez tied the knot; however, no one ever admitted to putting the noose on Green’s chair. None of the four men who were in the room when the little stunt was pulled were willing to ’fess up, which troubled Jurgle, according to the news site.
“I heard the word ‘joke’ a lot and I said, ‘Explain the joke to me; explain how this is funny,’” Jurgle said. “They haven’t been able to do that.”
That’s because it wasn’t a joke and will never be funny, Mr. Jurgle. But we both already knew that.
The recruits were set to become full firefighters next year, since they were working to complete two months of training at the city’s training center. They were still on probationary status, but there’s nothing like the stunt that was pulled to cut that short, especially with a chief in charge who does not want his firefighting force wrapped up in any of that mess.
“This is not our culture,” Jurgle said.
Read more at the Sun Sentinel.