Minority firefighters speak out after racist post

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — More fallout today after New Haven Fire Lieutenant Kevin Owens was suspended for a racial slur against African Americans that was posted through his Facebook page.

“So, the question is, how can he serve mankind or the people in this community with sentiments of that in his heart,” asked fellow firefighter Darrell Brooks.

Brooks is a member of the New Haven Firebirds, a nearly 45-year-old organization of minority firefighters. They said firefighters must respond equally, without regard to race or the religion of a community they serve.

“My entire family lives here,” said Brooks. “And if he feels that way, will he offer the kind of service my family needs in time of crisis?”

The Firebirds stood outside the Goffe Street Fire House where Lt. Owens once served. Members stopped short of asking for his termination, but they did suggest he should lose his leadership role because of the openly racist comment.

“If you feel that low about me, how safe will I be?” asked Douglas Wardlaw, second vice president of the Firebirds. “Are you really going to be at 100 percent for my safety if you feel that low about me as an African American?”

“He has a family to feed and I personally wouldn’t want to see anybody terminated,” said Brooks.

But not everyone is as forgiving. Boise Kimber was a Fire Board Commissioner for nine years. The community activist said Owens should be fired and forced to fight for his job back.

“There are consequences and retributions to what you say and do in this society,” said Kimber, who is also pastor of First Cavalry Baptist Church.

Owens is suspended without pay for September. He will stand before the Board of Fire Commissioners, who will decide his ultimate fate.

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