Firefighters suspended after mocking 8-year-old Black girl killed by police on hot mic
Fanta Bility

After Pennsylvania firefighters were caught mocking an 8-year-old Black girl killed by police on a hot mic last month, some members of the department reportedly have been placed on administrative suspension.

The members of Briarcliffe Fire Company, in Delaware County, were suspended during a closed-door meeting at the station on Thursday night, according to Philadelphia's ABC Channel 6. The fire company was temporarily shut down by Darby Township commissioners after the audio surfaced earlier this month.

"The Board voted to place certain members on administrative suspension pending the results of the Township's investigation," officials said in a statement. "This is without prejudice to take further action at the conclusion of the Township's investigation. The names of the members under administrative suspension will not be released at this time because this is an internal personnel matter."

A Channel 6 crew was not allowed inside Thursday's meeting, and some attendees "could be seen hopping fences to avoid our cameras, several shielded their faces and others declined to speak about the gathering," according to the station.

The firefighters from Briarcliffe Fire Company thought their conversation following a virtual meeting in late January was private, according to reports.

"The original call was to discuss the consolidation of services between the Briarcliffe, Goodwill, and Darby fire companies," Channel 6 reported. "When county and state officials got off the call, members of the Briarcliffe Fire Company allegedly stayed on and engaged in a discussion that included racial slurs and disparaging remarks about African Americans in the area."

The Briarcliffe firefighters reportedly didn't realize that their colleagues from the Goodwill station were still on the line. The Goodwill firefighters recorded the call, and while the full audio hasn't been made public, Channel 6 played clips from the conversation.

"A bunch of f*cking n*ggers down there," one Briarcliffe firefighter can be heard saying in reference to the all-Black Darby Township Fire Company.

The Briarcliffe firefighters also called Darby's chief a racial slur and a "piece of sh*t," complained about Black firefighters being lazy, and discussed there being too many African-Americans living in the area.

"That's the f*cking problem," one Briarcliffe firefighter said. "Blacks are taking over sh*t."

They went on to mock Fanta Bility, an 8-year-old Black girl killed by police in Delaware County in August 2021. Three police officers are facing charges in connection with Fanta's death.

"Fanta soda, yeah, orange or Fanta grape," one Briarcliffe firefighter reportedly said on the call while chuckling.

Tim Eichelman, president and deputy chief of the Goodwill Fire Company, said his members chose to release the recording because it was "just the tip of the iceberg."

“Letters have been written to the township before about their behavior, and their racist remarks, but there was no action taken because nobody ever heard it,” Eichelman told WHYY News. “We’ve had issues where [Briarcliffe firefighters] didn’t want to run to the lower end because [what] they said to me was, ‘We don’t want to work with them, because of what we get,’ and I’m like, ‘What are we getting?’ ‘You know what we’re getting.'"

Delaware County Council member Richard Womack, who is Black, said he has long heard rumors of misconduct at the Briarcliffe Fire Company.

“We never really had any kind of evidence of it. It was just kind of rumored that it was said, but they said showing up at fires, working together, sometimes when Briarcliffe would come down into the Darby Township [Fire Company] area, they would kind of stand back and say, ‘Hey, well, this is not our fire, we’re just here for backup,’” Womack said.

Watch Channel 6's report below.