Firefighters support white recruit fired over watermelon

Firefighters support white recruit fired over watermelon (Photo: MGN)

(KUTV) After a new recruit was fired for bringing a watermelon as a gift to a crew made up of mostly black firefighters, he got a massive show of support.

Robert Pattinson, a white probationary firefighter in Detroit, followed the tradition of bringing a gift to the veteran squad members but showed up with a watermelon topped by a bow instead of the usual doughnuts. His commissioner called the gift "offensive and racially insensitive work behavior," and he was fired.

Now, a Detroit news station is reporting that several black firefighters -- in a social media post by Tadarius Spearman -- supported Pattinson.

According to Fox2 in Detroit, Spearman wrote:

Just want to let everyone know he's a real amazing dude and it was all good intentions. And our entire class (is) supporting him in this. Especially us African-Americans and that's all that needs to be said. Stay up brother. #DFD.

The station previously reported that several firefighters were offended when Pattinson presented the watermelon at Engine 55 station in Detroit.

The station also published a statement from Fire Commissioner Eric Jones who officially discharged him:

There is zero tolerance for discriminatory behavior inside the Detroit Fire Department. On Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017, at Engine 55, a trial firefighter (probationary employee) engaged in unsatisfactory work behavior which was deemed offensive and racially insensitive to members of the Detroit Fire Department. After a thorough investigation, it was determined that the best course of action was to terminate the employment of this probationary employee.

The photo with the post is said to be of Pattinson standing in the middle of a group of black firefighters. Pattison told Fox 2 that the watermelon was not intended to be a joke.

Second Battalion Chief Shawn McCarty said new firefighters bringing gifts is a tradition, but most often people they show up with doughnuts.

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