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Black firefighter alleges captain took group to racist party with display mocking Juneteenth holiday

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Juneteenth: America's second Independence Day
Juneteenth: America's second Independence Day 05:24

A legal filing by a Black firefighter in western New York alleges he was pressured by a superior into going to a party that contained racist imagery.

In a notice of claim filed Thursday, Jerrod Jones said the party occurred last month at a private home in a wealthy section of Rochester. He and two other firefighters attended after their captain, Jeffrey Krywy, allegedly told them they should all go to the party.

Jones, a 14-year department veteran, became uneasy when he arrived at the house and saw a cardboard cutout figure of former President Donald Trump, since firefighters aren't supposed to attend partisan political events while on duty, his attorney, Nate McMurray, said Thursday.

Jones said he then saw a display mocking the Juneteenth holiday, which celebrates the end of slavery in the 19th century, with Juneteenth flags displayed over buckets of fried chicken.

In addition, a woman allegedly impersonated a local Democratic official and performed a sexually suggestive dance, and pictures of Democratic politicians were attached to stakes in the yard.

The incident "cut me very deeply," Jones said at a news conference. "I decided to speak up today because I have two children who maybe one day will aspire to become firefighters, and I don't want them to experience what I experienced."

Jones said he told superiors about the incident and requested to not be assigned to work under Krywy, but was denied.

The notice of claim, which is a notice of intent to file a lawsuit, names the city of Rochester and the fire department. Jones will seek at least $3 million for emotional distress and at least $1 million in compensatory damages. Jones is currently on leave and fears retaliation, McMurray said.

Email and phone messages were left with the Rochester fire department Thursday. In a statement, Fire Chief Felipe Hernandez Jr. called the incident "unacceptable and an affront to everyone who works with the RFD and in City Hall," and said Krywy has been suspended, the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle reported.

An email message seeking comment was left with Krywy on Thursday.

Jones also believes he spotted a senior member of the Rochester Police Department at the party, CBS affiliate reported. In response, the police department released a statement saying an internal investigation is underway adding, "if any members are found to have been involved in these vile allegations, appropriate disciplinary measures will be taken."

The filing listed the address of the party, which is the home of Nicholas Nicosia, a dentist and member of the board of directors at Highland Hospital, an affiliate of the University of Rochester Medical Center. A phone message was left Thursday at Nicosia's office.

In a tweet Thursday afternoon, the hospital said it was "appalled" at the allegations and was trying to reach Dr. Nicosia.

The firefighters union released a statement Thursday, saying, "The Rochester Firefighters Association, IAFF Local 1071 finds today's allegations regarding events during the incident of July 7th extremely disturbing. Our union has zero tolerance for racist attitudes and behaviors, either on or off our jobs. We will await the findings and details of a full investigation of this matter, before making further comments or taking responsive actions."

Rochester Mayor Malik Evans says the investigation into the matter has concluded and the fire chief will be making a determination on the case soon, WIVB reported.

"I'm pretty distressed today about this," he said, according to the station. "I will tell you that I'm not happy about what I've heard so far."

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