1 Fort Lauderdale
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Four Miami firefighters have been charged for their suspected roles in drawing penises on a co-worker’s family photos — a case that drew national attention because a noose was also found at the scene.
Firefighters Harold Santana, Kevin Meizoso and Justin Rumbaugh are being charged with misdemeanor criminal mischief. A fourth, Lt. Alejandro Sese, is being charged with the misdemeanor as well as a felony witness tampering charge because he is suspected of trying to cover up the incident.
“Every single one of us thinks of firefighters as heroes,” Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle told the Miami Herald. “So this is a very sad reality to see all this boorish, callous, abusive behavior that happened to a member of this special brotherhood.”
None of the men are being charged in connection with the noose, which investigators suspected was placed there as a racially motivated message to the black firefighter. But detectives could never prove who placed the noose there or why. Under state law, some charges can be “enhanced,” and their penalties stiffened, if prosecutors can prove prejudice.
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“The evidence is that they did this for reasons other than racial motivation,” Fernandez Rundle said.
Prosecutors, along with top Miami Fire-Rescue officials, will detail the charges Tuesday afternoon at a press conference.
The charges were filed more than one year after the city fired six firefighters over the incident that took place as Hurricane Irma was bearing down on South Florida in September 2017.
The victim was veteran firefighter Robert S. Webster, who returned to his room at Station 12 to find that someone had taken his family photos, removed the pictures, drawn penis images on the photos and then returned them to their frames.