ROCHESTER, N.Y. (AP) — 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 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.
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.