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4 ex-firefighters charged for "racist, lewd" prank on black colleague in Miami

The Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office has filed charges against four former Miami firefighters accused of a racist and lewd prank on a black colleague, CBS Miami reports. The charges include tampering with a witness, petty theft and criminal mischief.

Lt. Robert Webster discovered a hangman's noose during his shift in Fire Station 12 in September 2017, the day Hurricane Irma hit. There were also sexual images drawn on his family photos.

The Miami Herald reports former fighters Harold Santana, Kevin Meizoso, Justin Rumbaugh and Alejandro Sese are charged with criminal mischief for their roles in defacing Webster's family photos. Sese is also charged with tampering for trying to cover up the incident.

"The victim is not just myself and my family," said Webster shortly after the incident. "It's the people in the community who look like me and my family because if this is what they feel about me who wears the same uniform that they wear, how do they truly feel about these people whose homes they're welcomed into at the time when they're most needing someone to care for them."

According to documents released by the city, officials said all of those involved admitted their part in the photo vandalism, but no one admitted creating or placing the noose.

No one has been charged in connection with the noose, which was placed over the framed family photos, because detectives were never able to prove who placed the noose there or why.

Tuesday afternoon, the State Attorney's Office detailed the charges against the former firefighters at a news conference. Webster was in attendance, along with members of the Miami-Dade Branch of the NAACP.

"The most important message is we're not gonna let the bullish, callous behavior of a handful of bad actors with bad behavior spoil the reputation and the overall professionalism and high regard we hold all of our firefighters in," Florida State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said.

Lt. Robert Webster seen with Florida State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle at a press conference Tue., Feb. 12, 2019. WSVN-TV via NNS

"I can't imagine opening my locker and seeing a penis drawn over my wife's face. That is sickening and the noose — the noose would not be put up over a white person's locker. No matter how much they disliked him, the noose is there because race is involved," said Brad Brown with the NAACP.

"This is bigger than our fire department. This is something that covers race, gender, religion because the incident that occurred could have happened to anybody. So I want them to know the incident that occurred could have happened to anybody," said Miami Fire Rescue Captain Jackson Deglace.

Harold Santana (top left), Kevin Meizoso (top right); Justin Rumbaugh (bottom left); Alejandro Sese (bottom right) City of Miami Fire Rescue via CBS Miami

Last November, the four firefighters plus their commanding officer Captain William W. Bryson were terminated by the city over the incident, the Herald reports. Bryson was not charged. The fired men believe they were unjustly punished. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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