In 2017, six City of Miami Fire-Rescue employees got canned after allegedly taking a black colleague's framed family photos, drawing ejaculating penises all over them, and then hanging a noose on top. In all, 11 employees knew about the racist incident, the department claimed.
Although the firefighters say they did nothing wrong and have fought to get their jobs back, Miami-Dade County prosecutors today announced criminal charges against some of them.
"State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle will hold a press conference at the Office of the State Attorney to announce charges filed as a result of the investigation into the September 2017 incident at the City of Miami Fire Station #12," spokesman Ed Griffith announced this morning in a media release. The station is next to Charles Hadley Park, at NW 46th Street and NW 12th Avenue in Liberty City.
The Miami Herald has since reported that four firefighters will be charged with criminal mischief and that one will be hit with an additional charge of witness tampering. Prosecutors said they could not ultimately determine who hung the noose, which is why they declined to file hate-crime charges.
BREAKING: Four Miami firefighters charged after coworker finds penises drawn on family photos https://t.co/eQLBz8Opqn— David Ovalle (@DavidOvalle305) February 12, 2019
In 2017, South Florida firefighters seemingly could not stop themselves from committing acts of racism. That August, Pompano Beach firefighters were caught placing a noose on a black colleague's car seat. Months later, Miami firefighters revealed their own problems: City of Miami Fire Chief Joseph Zahralban released images of the aforementioned noose and penis drawings and called the incident a massive embarrassment to the department. (A majority of the firefighters involved in the incident were white.) That year, Zahralban told reporters the following:
On September 9th, 2017, a member with the City of Miami Fire Rescue was a victim of a hideous, distasteful act of hate in one of our fire stations. This Lieutenant of 17 years with the department discovered his family photos were defaced with lewd and sexually explicit renderings and a noose draped over one of the photos. 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.
City officials also said multiple employees had allegedly lied during the internal investigation and withheld basic information from supervisors. The six terminated firefighters, however, maintained they were innocent and demanded to be reinstated. The Miami chapter of the NAACP urged the city not to bow to their demands.
Rundle will speak to the media at 2:30 today alongside Zahralban, members of the Miami NAACP, and the victim, Lt. Robert Webster.
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HAPPENING NOW: A show of support from members of the #ProfessionalBlackFirefightersAssociation for Lt. Robert Webster, the victim in the case brought against 4 former @CityofMiamiFire officials today for acts they perpetrated in September 2017. pic.twitter.com/oE2CLq5wZ5— Kathy Rundle (@KathyFndzRundle) February 12, 2019
Former @CityofMiamiFire firefighters Lt. Alejandro Sese, Harold Santana, Kevin Meizosos, & Justin Rumbaugh have been charged in the case. Sese is charged with Tampering with a Witness, Criminal Mischief & Petit Theft. The other 3 officials are charged with Criminal Mischief.— Kathy Rundle (@KathyFndzRundle) February 12, 2019
Miami Fire Lt. Robert Webster calls the charges “proper punishment for the catalyst & the immature, childish people who followed..”— Glenna Milberg (@GlennaWPLG) February 12, 2019
And in this *must listen*, he gives a riveting schooling to anyone who mistakenly thinks the image of a noose can be a prank @WPLGLocal10 pic.twitter.com/cgkv6wLfLu
This is a breaking story. This post will be updated.
Editor's note: After publication, Pablo Tamayo, a lawyer for Alejandro Sese, sent the following email: 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.