Mother of slain teen thanks commissioners for support
MIAMI (WSVN) -- The mother of a South Florida teenager slain by a neighborhood watch volunteer is expressing gratitude to the Miami-Dade commission and her co-workers for their continued support.
"I just want to say thank you, to each and every one of you who voted to help me with this project, with this campaign, with this movement. I appreciate it," said Sybrina Fulton, her voice quivering.
Tuesday morning Fulton appeared in front of Miami-Dade County commission with her 21-year-old son Jahvaris to thank the commissioners and her fellow county co-workers. Fulton has worked for the for Miami-Dade County housing authority for 23 years and is grateful for the overwhelming support from co-workers and community leaders.
Last month, commissioners voted to allow community employees to donate their vacation time to Fulton, so she could focus on the trial. About 192 county employees donated about $40,825 worth of vacation and sick time. "I was able to donate time, and I was glad to be able to do it, because that was something that I could do on a physical level to help her emotionally," said Ritha Boon-Fye, who donated vacation time to her co-worker.
Pearl Patterson Bethel is a county employee who also donated her time to Fulton. Bethel hopes Trayvon Martin's death will reform State laws. "I'm the mother of an 18-year-old; the tragedy that happened to Trayvon could've happened to anyone," she said. "The initiative that they've taken now, because of Trayvon Martin, I think that there will be some changes made to the Stand Your Ground law."
Fulton now has about eight months of paid leave from her county job. "I appreciate every last one of my co-workers that donated time, and the ones who weren't able to donate time," she said. "I appreciate everybody's continued support."
However, not all Miami-Dade County employees have shown Fulton support or respect. Brian Beckmann, a 15-year veteran of the county fire department, was recently demoted from captain to firefighter after he posted the following racial rant on his personal Facebook page: "I and my co-workers could rewrite the book on whether our urban youths are victims of racist profiling or products of their failed, s***bag, ignorant, pathetic, welfare dependent excuses for parents."
Beckmann's post came on the same day charges for Trayvon's admitted shooter, George Zimmerman, were announced. Miami-Dade County mayor Carlos Gimenez said, "I think that what Mr. Beckmann wrote was reprehensible, and unfortunately, he brought in his entire department when he said him and his co-workers felt a certain way. We will not tolerate that in that department, and we will not tolerate it in the county."
The firefighter initially defended his right to free speech, but later submitted this apology to fire chief William Bryson: "I promise I will try harder than ever to be a decent and professional public servant to the citizens of Miami-Dade County ... My family has suffered tremendously and this has been punishment beyond anything I ever imagined."
John Pace of the Federation of Black Employees offered Beckmann an opportunity to visit those in the African-American community so he can witness firsthand how urban parents really raise their children. "Mr. Beckmann, firefighter Beckmann, you insulted this community. You did offer an apology, somewhat, but I say to you, a real apology is to come to us. Let us work with you."
On Tuesday, the firefighters' union filed an appeal on Beckmann's behalf, but it could take up to six months for an arbitrator to hand down a decision in the case.
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