The video above is news coverage of Wednesday's hearing involving Macon-Bibb County Lt. Stephanie Burke, who was demoted from captain by Chief Marvin Riggins after learning of Burke's involvement in a September 18 hazing using a fake gunman at Station 108. The clip below has a longer, unedited version of the video that prompted the punishment. Chief Riggins narrates that video explaining why he believes Burke knew more than she admitted. At the bottom is the video that was posted to YouTube.
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.
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.”
Burke took the stand Wednesday afternoon to say she knew about the stunt in advance, but didn't know the details.
In fact, one firefighter texted her to say he couldn't find anyone to play the role of a shooter, so the stunt was called off.
Earlier, a Macon-Bibb fire battalion chief defended Burke. James Wallace was the first witness for the defense.
He says Burke was good at her job as captain and he would be glad to have her back in that role. He said demoting Burke to lieutenant for her role in the hazing stunt was too harsh.
Five firefighters were disciplined in the case.
Wallace today said he had heard scuttlebutt that a prank was in the works against a new private at Station 108. He says he did not know exactly what was happening, he'd just heard talk of it.
Wallace says pranking rookies had been a tradition at the fire department.
Wallace says he was on the other side of the building when the prank happened. He found out about it when he walked back across and everyone was laughing.
He said he saw the video that night and told them they would end in the chief's office for that. He says he thought that would end it.
Wallace says if he had to recommend discipline for Burke he would agree with a 20-day suspension but not demotion.
"Her, or any of them, I would take them back today," Wallace said when asked if he would be willing to have Burke serve as captain again.
Earlier in the day, Macon-Bibb's fire chief testified that Burke lied to him about planning the videotaped shooting stunt.
Chief Marvin Riggins was the first witness today against Burke.
He said he talked to Burke the day after the videotaped hazing stunt. When he asked her if she knew about the prank, Riggins says Burke told him she was as surprised as the rookies.
Riggins then showed an unedited version of the hazing stunt. He stopped it at several spots to point out Burke.
He says he can see Burke laughing with other firefighters while it happened. She put her hands over her ears just as the firecracker was set to go off, and she jumped up to give high fives at the end. The chief says those actions show she was not scared and had to know about what was happening.
Riggins says after initial interviews, three firefighters gave additional statements saying Burke was more involved than she let on.
Riggins says he asked her repeatedly if she was involved, and she said no.
During cross examination, Riggins says firefighter Justin hill came to him saying he did not feel safe or comfortable at station and was having sleep issues. He was one of the rookies at the firehouse, he said.
Capt Tom Musselwhite was the next witness for city. He was ordered by the chief to conduct a criminal investigation on the incident.
Musselwhite says after looking at the video frame by frame, there was no doubt everyone but the rookie was involved.
He says Burke laughed, moved away from the camera so you could see the rookie, and she clapped at the end.
Burke's hearing began just after 9 a.m. at Macon City Hall.
In his opening statement, Judd Drake the city's attorney, said Burke is guilty of improper conduct, breaking city guidelines, dishonest and disgraceful conduct.
Drake says video and testimony will show Burke failed to accept responsibility and was dishonest to the chief.
Burke's lawyer says the captain is a 25-year veteran of the department, who has never been never been disciplined and worked through the ranks.
She says Burke lost two months' pay and was demoted. They're asking the judge to overturn Chief Marvin Riggins' decision, restore her captain's rank and repay the days lost
Two firefighters have already had their appeal hearings. Josh Brewer who video-taped the incident was demoted and suspended. Christopher Hughes, who says he brought the gun used in the video, was fired.
Firefighters allegedly staged the stunt as a hazing prank, and the video was posted to YouTube.
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