Entire fire company suspended after virtual meeting captures ‘racist jokes about dead 8-year-old’

Councillor and family lawyer describe allegations as ‘appalling’

Gino Spocchia
Friday 11 February 2022 17:39 GMT
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Entire fire company suspended for racist jokes

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An entire volunteer fire company was suspended for 30 days after six of its members were allegedly caught making racist jokes about a murdered eight-year-old child.

The Briarcliffe Volunteer Fire Company members were suspended on Wednesday by authorities in Darby Township, of Delaware County in southwest Pennsylvania, according to NBC News, for the alleged remarks.

That included the alleged use of racial slurs to describe Black firefighters as well as threat to assault members of Goodwill, another local fire company in the township.

An audio recording from the virtual meeting between fire companies was leaked to NBC News and other outlets, and also included comments about the name of Fanta Ability, an eight-year-old who was was killed in a shooting last year.

Three police officers were charged with voluntary and involuntary manslaughter last month for her death, which came moments after gunshots were heard nearby a football game. Police fired towards a car which hit Fanta, her 13-year old sister, and two others.

She was killed about a mile from Darby Township and a lawyer for her family said on Thursday that the allegations against the Briarcliffe Volunteer Fire Company were appalling.

“A kind and loving girl, Fanta brightened the lives of everyone she met,” said Bruce Castor Jr. “To speak of her with such disrespect, shines the light of shame on those people at the fire house making the remarks”.

He added that it “reflects negatively on those good and true first responders who pledge their lives to the service of all members of the community.”

The Briarcliffe Volunteer Fire Company has been suspended
The Briarcliffe Volunteer Fire Company has been suspended (Fox29)
A sign calling for justice in the killing of Fanta Ability
A sign calling for justice in the killing of Fanta Ability (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

In response, the Darby Township Board of Commissioners forced the suspension of six individuals who reportedly remained logged-on following a virtual meeting on 27 January when the comments were recorded.

“I am appalled to have to stand here today and hear about these racist comments,” said councilman Richard Womack Jr.“This is not acceptable, we will do anything we have to, it’s not something that just started, it’s been here for years”.

“It will not continue in Darby Township,” he added on Wednesday. “The community should not have to be fearful whether or not they are going to receive good treatment.”

Darby Township solicitor Michael Pierce was also reported as saying that the case will be turned over to Delaware County for investigation, with charges against the individuals possible, according to the Delaware County Daily Times.

Two teenagers have also been charged for Fanta’s death, and were thought to have been near the football game when police heard gunshots, and fired.

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