WBAL TV 11 News has learned that the president of the Baltimore chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People offered an apology to city firefighters that he called racist over a noose incident that turned out to be a hoax.
Firefighters said they were defamed by the civil rights group and by a black firefighters group after a black paramedic apprentice found a threatening note and a rope shaped like a noose inside the Herman Williams Jr. Firehouse last month.
The paramedic apprentice, Donald Maynard, later admitted to authorities to placing the items there.
According to city fire officials, NAACP President Marvin "Doc" Cheatham arrived at the firehouse at about 8:15 a.m. Wednesday and apologized to 14 firefighters, admitting he made a mistake. According to the fire department, he said that the NAACP "came out, spoke out without communicating with all the parties involved."
City fire officials who were at the station Wednesday said that Cheatham was well received, and that he shook everyone's hand and stayed to answer questions from the rank and file.
But firefighters union Local 734 President Rick Schluderberg said that not everyone thought Cheatham offered a sincere apology.
"An apology is, 'I'm sorry. I made a mistake.' From what I gathered, he didn't say those words," he said.
At the time the noose and note were found, a black firefighters group called the Vulcan Blazers and the NAACP made accusations of racism within the department.
Henry Burris, the president of the Vulcan Blazers, said last month: "The fire department must take a stand against this type of behavior, it may not come from the chief of the fire department, but the mayor must intervene.
Schluderberg said the union believes the apology should have been as public as labeling the firehouse racist. He said they're exploring legal options.
"We are looking at a defamation of character lawsuit. We don't have all of the pieces together yet," he said.
The fire department said that Maynard faces termination for failing to complete intermediate training as an emergency medical technician. Officials said that Maynard planted the items in a misguided way to become a victim, and in the process keep his job.
Mayor Sheila Dixon said an apology wasn't necessary, but better communication between all parties is. She praised Cheatham's act of contrition.
"I think that it is a heroic act of Doc Cheatham. I think all of us, meaning the fire department, the union, Vulcan Blazers and the NAACP have all learned a lesson," she said.
Cheatham declined to return several phone calls from 11 News. City fire officials would not make any of the firefighters available for an interview.
Stay with WBALTV.com and WBAL TV 11 News for updates on this story.
- December 4, 2007: Paramedic Who Left Noose At Station To Be Fired
- November 21, 2007: Noose, Note Found At Fire House
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