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Four Florida firefighter recruits gone over noose left at black firefighter’s seat

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Anne Geggis, Sun Sentinel:

One firefighter recruit has been fired and three others resigned because of a noose found hanging over a black firefighter’s seat, Pompano fire officials say.

An investigation into the noose, which was found at the Pompano Beach Fire Training Center, concluded Wednesday.

Pompano Beach Fire Chief John Jurgle said he acted as soon as he heard last month about the racist symbol, which was directed at the only black recruit in a class of six. The noose was found June 7 on the recruits’ last day of training, he said.

The noose is a symbol of racial hatred, representing the lynchings of blacks, particularly by mobs in the South after the Civil War.

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“He was not happy with what was done, but after taking the picture, he decided he didn’t want to do anything with it,” Jurgle said. 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.

“They told him they knew nothing of it,” Jurgle said. Their denial led the firefighter to report what happened to the captain in charge of training, who took the matter to Jurgle.

Matthew Reilly was fired and recruits Kerop Berberian, Geandy Perez and Austin Sovay resigned.


Jurgle said the fact that none of the four men were 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 heard the word ‘joke’ a lot and I said, ‘Explain the joke to me, explain how this is funny,’ “Jurgle said. “They haven’t been able to do that.”

“It wasn’t a noose. It was a fishing knot,” said Sovay. 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.


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