Rookie Detroit firefighter Robert Pattison, eager to officially start his new job, stopped by Engine 55 to introduce himself. While not mandatory, probationary firefighters traditionally bring along a small gift for their new colleagues.
Before the whole thing was over, Pattison was fired before he officially started.
As reported by WJBK in Detroit, doughnuts are usually the gift of choice, but rookies are allowed to bring in whatever they choose.
Unfortunately for Pattison, he chose a watermelon — adorned with a pink bow:
Some African-American firefighters were instantly offended, and according to WJBK, 90 percent of the people who work at Engine 55 are black.
WJBK asked Second Battalion Chief Shawn McCarty, who is black, if it was racially insensitive for Pattison to bring a watermelon into the firehouse.
“To some people,” he said, but he doesn't think Pattison should've lost his job over the incident:
“I don't think so, I don't think so. Between what he did and losing his job, there are a few things that could have been done.”
In a statement, Fire Commissioner Eric Jones explained why Pattison was discharged:
"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."
Firefighter Patrick Trout disagreed with the decision to fire Pattison, but said he should've known better:
“When you get your first detail at a firehouse, you pretty much know what you are getting yourself into. So you would have to say it was probably a bad call.”
Pattison told WJBK the watermelon wasn't a joke, nor did intend to offend anyone.
Video of the segment is below.