A Miami Black firefighter who was the target of a lewd act spoke exclusively with NBC 6 about the pain he felt when he made a disturbing discovery in September of 2017.
Lt. Robert Webster found a noose hanging over a picture of his family ruined by lewd drawings. The act was committed by the men he called his brothers.
"I don't know how they did it, because that's still a mystery to me," Webster told NBC 6. "How could one person influence so many people that have to see me and feel a certain way about me? It's still a mystery to me. It does hurt."
Nearly a year and a half later, four former firefighters were charged in connection to the offensive act. A total of six firefighters were fired two months after the incident. Webster said he didn't know what to think when he made the discovery.
"Initially, it was just the shock of what am I really looking at here? What does it mean and now to me more importantly, what am I going to do?" recalled Webster.
The Miami Dade State Attorney's Office decided not to enhance the charges to a hate crime, but Webster said he has no doubt in his mind this act was rooted in hate.
"This came from hate. How each person involved justified it in their heart to take part in it, I don't know," Webster explained. "But. I know that the seed of this entire horrible vine that has spread its tentacles across this department was a seed of hate."
Kevin Meizoso, Justin Rumbaugh and Harold Santana were charged with criminal mischief. Former Lt. Alejandro Sese faces five charges including a felony for witness tampering. Sese's attorney fired against the charges stating that the former firefighter has been unfairly and publicly smeared. Sese's defense team added that he "finds such a racist act reprehensible, and condemns anyone" who placed the noose on the photo.
Two other firefighters, Cpt. William Bryson and David Rivera, who were also fired after the incident were not charged. None of the men admitted to placing the noose on Webster's desk, according to city officials. All of the accused denied the allegations at the time of their terminations.
The Miami Dade branch of the NAACP and the Professional Black Firefighters Association have supported Webster throughout the ordeal. Both organizations said they never want to see this type of hate within the department and across South Florida.
"What needs to happen, is that the message needs to be clear, not only in Dade County, but nationwide that this is a new era. We're in 2019, we shouldn't be dealing with issues like this in 2019," said Ruban Roberts, President of the Miami Dade Branch of the NAACP.
The Vice President of the Black firefighters union believes the only way to stop these acts is to add more diversity to fire departments.
"What I see being an issue really is that you don't have to be an officer to be a leader, and I would like for other guys to stop up in leadership roles," explained Lt. Darren Davis, PBFA.
Webster agrees and in the end wants to move forward with being a City of Miami firefighter.
"I want justice. I want to love this job again. And not just the job, love everyone who does the job."