An assistant chief of an Indiana city’s fire department has agreed to a demotion after being accused by a fellow firefighter of tying a noose with rope during a training exercise, local media reported on Wednesday.
A Marion city attorney said Assistant Fire Chief Rick Backs accepted a demotion to private on Tuesday during a meeting with Fire Chief Paul David, local media reported.
“I maintain that my actions were not racially motivated, it wasn’t a threat, or a joke, but an honest lapse in judgment, and was not directed at any particular person,” Backs said in a statement broadcast by WISH TV.
Firefighter Mikel Neal, who is black, told a news conference in which his attorney called for Backs’ dismissal, that he “was instantly upset, disgusted, angry” after the Feb. 13 incident.
Both men are long veterans of the department in Marion, about 65 miles (105 km) northeast of Indianapolis, local broadcaster WISH reported, adding that they will be placed at different stations.
The Marion fire department did not immediately respond to a request for comment. An attorney for Neal could not immediately be reached.
Also on Wednesday, Duke University said it was investigating a noose found hanging from a tree at its campus in North Carolina.
In 1930, two young black men were beaten and hanged after being accused of murdering a white man in what is believed to be the last recorded lynching in the northern United States.
The Washington Post reported that Neal’s wife was related to one of the hanged men.
Lynching, or extrajudicial public execution by hanging, was once a common practice in parts of the United States in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. By one estimate, some 3,500 African-Americans were lynched from 1882 to 1968.
(Reporting by Eric M. Johnson; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)
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