MIAMI – Lt. Robert Webster, a 17 year veteran of the Miami Department of Fire-Rescue, said it's an honor for him to serve in the neighborhood where he grew up.
Webster said he had been working hard during Hurricane Irma when his colleagues left a white noose and vandalized the family photos on his desk with sexually explicit symbols. There had been "little things" done before to demean him, he said, so he knew this wasn't a bad joke.
The lieutenant said he considered the behavior of his colleagues at Miami Fire Station No. 12 as "stupid" and offensive. It felt like a deep betrayal of a bond that he values.
"I believe in this brotherhood that we throw around so much," Webster said.
That's why he finally spoke up. Miami police officers investigated the Sept. 9 incident and the department issued termination letters Wednesday to all six of the firefighters identified as Capt. William W. Bryson, Lt. Alejandro Sese, David Rivera, Harold Santana, Justin Rumbaugh and Kevin Meizoso.
Bryson is the son of former William W. "Shorty" Bryson, the former Miami fire chief. He and Webster shared office space at the station dedicated to Willie Waters, the first black firefighter hired within a major department in the state.
The Miami International Association of Firefighters condemned the behavior involving the noose, historically a symbol of racial hate.
"Racism and the tools of hatred (are) like a loaded gun sitting on the table," Webster said.