A Black firefighter in western New York claims he was pressured by his captain into going to a party that had racist imagery.
In a notice of claim filed Thursday, Jerrod Jones alleges that the party took place in July at a private home located in a wealthy area of Rochester. Jones and two other firefighters went to the party with Captain Jeffrey Krywy, who allegedly told them they should all attend, CBS News reported.
Jones, a 14-year department veteran, said he felt uneasy when he arrived at the home and noticed a cardboard cutout figure of former President Donald Trump– firefighters aren’t supposed to attend partisan political events while on duty, his attorney, Nate McMurray, stated.
Jones said he also saw a display mocking the Juneteenth holiday, which is the celebration of the end of slavery in the 19th century. It included Juneteenth flags displayed over buckets of fried chicken.
In addition, a woman at the party allegedly impersonated a local Democratic official and also performed a sexually suggestive dance. There are also allegations that there were pictures of Democratic politicians were attached to stakes in the yard.
The incident “cut me very deeply,” Jones said during a news conference. “I decided to speak up today because I have two children who maybe one day will aspire to become firefighters, and I don’t want them to experience what I experienced.”
Jones said he then reported the incident to superiors and requested to not be assigned to work under Krywy, but his request was denied.
The notice of claim, which is a notice of intent to file a lawsuit, list the city of Rochester and the fire department. Jones seeks at least $3 million for emotional distress and at least $1 million in compensatory damages. He is currently on leave and says he fears retaliation.
Fire Chief Felipe Hernandez Jr. called the incident “unacceptable and an affront to everyone who works with the RFD and in City Hall,” and said Krywy has been suspended.
Jones believes he saw a senior member of the Rochester Police Department at the party, in response to that claim, the police department released a statement confirming an internal investigation has been launched adding, “if any members are found to have been involved in these vile allegations, appropriate disciplinary measures will be taken.”
The filing listed the address of the party as the home of Nicholas Nicosia, who is a dentist and member of the board of directors at Highland Hospital, an affiliate of the University of Rochester Medical Center.
In a tweet Thursday afternoon, the hospital said it was “appalled” at the allegations and has tried to reach Dr. Nicosia.