Mississippi Noose Case Leads to Resignation

A Mississippi lieutenant who was demoted after a noose was discovered in his locker, has opted to resign rather than accept his discipline. Shelton Russell resigned from the Hattiesburg Fire Department after the appeal of his punishment was denied.

Last August, two firefighters observed the noose hanging in Lt. Russell’s locker. Both claim they were disturbed and took photos of it. One of the firefighters, Kentavius Reed, was quoted as saying:

  • “It was like shock at first”
  • “I was kind of like ‘Why would you have it in your locker?’”

When confronted about the noose, Lt. Russell contended he associated it with cowboy culture as well as being an intricate knot, and not as a symbol of racism. AP quoted him as saying:

  • “African-Americans were hung by it. So were whites. So were horse thieves and you know, I’m a cowboy. I’m out in the country. I ride a tractor every day. That’s what I go back to, cowboys and that’s how it got started, with watching the Western.”

Following an investigation, Hattiesburg Fire Chief Sherrocko Stewart decided to discipline Lt. Russell. He was demoted, suspended without pay for a month, and ordered to undergo counseling. Lt. Russell appealed the demotion to the Civil Service Commission, who upheld the punishment following a hearing in October. Lt. Russell then opted to resign.

Here is more on the story.

Noose cases in the fire service are not uncommon. The Hattiesburg case is the 34th I have in the database.

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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