MIAMI (WSVN) - Charges have been announced against four of six City of Miami firefighters who were fired for defacing the family photos of a co-worker, including placing a noose made of twine on top of one of them.
Miami-Dade County State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle announced Tuesday that charges have been filed against Miami firefighters Alejandro Sese, Harold Santana, Kevin Meizoso and Justin Rumbaugh.
“The most important message is we’re not gonna let the bullish, callous behavior of a handful of bad actors with bad behavior spoil the reputation and the overall professionalism and high regard we hold all of our firefighters in,” Fernandez Rundle said.
Sese has been charged with one count of tampering with a witness — a third degree felony, one count of petit theft and three counts of criminal mischief.
Sese bonded out Tuesday night.
“This was a common practice of drawing phallic symbols on objects as a practical joke,” Fernandez Rundle said. “There was no evidence that was uncovered that Lieutenant says he and the others were motivated to deface the photographs as a result of racial prejudice.”
Santana, Meuzoso and Rumbaugh have each been charged with one count of criminal mischief, a second degree misdemeanor.
City of Miami Fire Rescue Lt. Robert Webster, the victim targeted, said, “Where the violation was felt the most was once I saw the images that were out on my wife, my daughter, my grandkids. This is huge because there is no precedent for anyone ever even getting a slap on the wrist.”
The men were fired from the City of Miami Fire Station No. 12 on Sep. 8 in 2017 after a noose was found hanging over a black co-worker’s family picture.
Other family photos of the victim were defaced with sexually explicit drawings.
“I was disgusted, and I was appalled by what I had seen,” said City of Miami Fire Chief Joseph Zahralban during a past press conference.
“In our communities, in our workplaces, organizations in our government, we cannot allow the worst among us to be the representation of the greatness, and the beauty that is us,” Webster said. “And to everyone, everywhere who heard of this and said, ‘Enough,’ I hear you.”
Sese’s attorney 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.
According to the State Attorney’s Office, the two other firefighters that were fired in relation to the racist act will not be charged due to lack of evidence against them.
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