Miami-Dade firefighter claims to be a victim of a hate crime

This past August 28, shortly after Miami-Dade firefighter Miguel Rodriguez arrived for work at the Miami International Airport station, he found an unsigned note in his locker. In big, bold block type, it read, "Hey you fucking black Dominican monkey do not come back to C shift nigger lover like you do not deserve to have this job you did not get enough last time ?????????? If you come back to C shift we will finish what we started."

Rodriguez, who is married to an African-American woman and was a corrections officer before becoming a fireman, alleges the note was authored by a co-worker on C shift.

It wasn't the first time the six-year firefighter has claimed harassment. Last year, after he reported several incidents, someone put a pair of blood-stained women's underwear in his clean linens. He even got into a fight with a co-worker, Lazaro Picallo, according to a police report. Though Rodriguez required six stitches, the report lists him as the aggressor. Calls to the fire department last Friday and Tuesday seeking comment from Picallo were not returned. There were no arrests.

Last week, Riptide online quoted Rodriguez identifying his tormentors. Those names were removed after the firefighters' attorney, Kendall Coffey, responded, "You quote an unauthenticated note and rely on nothing but rank speculation as to its creation." (Coffey did not respond to two phone messages seeking comment Tuesday).

The latest incident was brought up during new fire Chief William "Shorty" Bryson's confirmation hearings in front of the county commission last week. "This stuff cannot be tolerated," said Barbara Jordan, an African-American commissioner. It is a sensitive issue because Bryson, who is white, was accused of discriminating against African-Americans when he served as the City of Miami fire union president.

On Tuesday, Bryson told airport firefighters the note's author will be fired, according to two anonymous firefighters. Fire department spokesperson Griselle Marino declined to confirm that account but said, "The issue is currently under investigation. And the department is taking appropriate steps to ensure there are no further incidents of a similar nature."

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Francisco Alvarado was born in Nicaragua and grew up in Miami, giving him unique insight into the Magic City and all its dark corners. An investigative reporter with a knack for uncovering corruption, Alvarado made his bones as a staff writer at Miami New Times and remains in dogged pursuit of the next juicy story.