During testimony Wednesday, a former Macon-Bibb County fire captain denied that she had helped plan a hazing prank at a fire station.
Stephanie Burke also denied that she told another firefighter to video the prank. The video was later posted on the social media website YouTube, prompting an investigation and subsequent disciplinary action.
Burke said she was laughing on the video because other firefighters had managed to “get” her.
Earlier in the hearing, Fire Chief Marvin Riggins testified that Burke’s reactions on the video did not indicate to him “someone who is afraid.”
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Burke was demoted to lieutenant and suspended for 20 shifts without pay for her role in the firehouse hazing prank. She is appealing that punishment.
The Sept. 18 video showed a masked man storming into a Peake Road fire station, brandishing a gun. He dragged one firefighter off camera, and what sounded like a gunshot soon followed. The sound was actually a firecracker.
Early in Wednesday’s hearing, Assistant City Attorney Judd Drake, who is representing the city, maintained that Burke had lied about her involvement in the prank. Serena Sparks, who is representing Burke, contended that Fire Chief Marvin Riggins had no credible evidence that Burke had not told the truth.
Unedited video was shown during the hearing. Riggins pointed out what he said was a smile on Burke’s face just after the prank began as she fell to the floor. “It’s not someone who is afraid,” he said.
He pointed to Burke’s covering her ears with her hands just before the firecracker exploded, suggesting that Burke knew what was about to happen. “That is worrisome to me,” the chief said.
The chief also emphasized that Burke was laughing with other firefighters just after the episode. “I don’t think that is someone who is upset about what is going on,” Riggins said.
Riggins also testified that one firefighter who was a victim of the prank is still receiving medical attention. He has trouble sleeping and feels like he can never have his back toward the fire station door.
Soon after the prank surfaced, Burke’s punishment included a two-day suspension. After text messages emerged, however, indicating that she had prior knowledge of the prank, Riggins increased Burke’s punishment.
Seven other firefighters were either demoted or slapped with unpaid suspensions for their involvement in the prank.