A South Florida fire chief fired a firefighter recruit and accepted the resignations of three others following an investigation into a noose left hanging over the chair of the only black recruit in a class of six on their last day of training.
The men described what happened on June 7 as a "joke," but Pompano Beach Chief John Jurgle said he won't "tolerate this kind of thing."
Jurgle said he found out about the incident July 26 and the investigation wrapped up Wednesday.
On the day it happened, Vilbert Green left the room to do a cleanup task. When he returned he found the noose dangling over his chair and a table, next to a paper nametag with Green's name on it, Jurgle said. He said Green took a picture.
Jurgle said Green was not happy about what happened, but didn't formally complain. Later, Green showed the pictured to another firefighter outside the class.
That firefighter, according to the investigation, was offended and tried to address it with the recruits.
Their denial led the firefighter to report what happened to the captain in charge of training, who took the matter to Jurgle.
"We wanted the truth we wanted to hear their side of the story. Perhaps there was an exclamation but they didn't give us that," Jurgle said.
Matthew Reilly was fired and recruits Kerop Berberian, Geandy Perez and Austin Sovay resigned.
The chief said he determined during the investigation that Perez tied the knot, but no one ever owned up to putting the noose over Green's chair.
Jurgle said the fact that none of the four men was willing to tell the truth troubled him. He said he learned the four were a tight-knit group, who said they didn't intense any offense.
"I don't see the humor in that as I said somebody explain to me the humor in a lynching noose and where is the humor in that no one has been able to explain that," Jurgle said.
"It wasn't a noose. It was a fishing knot," Sovay told the Sun Sentinel.
His former colleague Berberian said, "people were let go for the wrong reasons."
The chief said he doesn't want his department associated with that kind of behavior.
"This is not our culture," he said.
The race of the recruits wasn't immediately known. They would have become full-fledged firefighters next year after completing two months of training.