Noose in Class Prompts Firing and Resignations in Florida

Four Pompano Beach fire recruits are off the job following an investigation into a noose found draped over the seat of the academy’s only black recruit. The incident occurred at the Pompano Beach Fire Training Center on the recruits’ last day of training, June 7, 2017, but was not immediately reported.

The black recruit, Vilbert Green, saw the noose, took a photo of it, but did not report the incident. He later showed the photo to another firefighter who brought it to the fire chief’s attention on July 26, 2017. Four recruits who were in the room at the time the noose was placed were suspended while the matter was investigated.

Following the investigation Kerop Berberian, Geandy Perez and Austin Sovay opted to resign while Matthew Reilly was fired. The investigation concluded that Perez was responsible for tying the noose but the others failed to tell the truth about the incident. None of the four owned up to placing the noose at Green’s seat.

Pompano Beach Fire Chief John Jurgle told the Sun Sentinal “I heard the word ‘joke’ a lot and I said, ‘Explain the joke to me, explain how this is funny.’ They haven’t been able to do that.”

The Sun Sentinel reached out to the former recruits for comment. Sovay told a reporter “It wasn’t a noose. It was a fishing knot.” Berberian said “people were let go for the wrong reasons.”

More on the story.

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.

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