MARION, Ind. (WANE) An assistant fire chief in Marion has accepted a demotion after being accused of throwing a noose at another firefighter. That firefighter spoke out for the first time Wednesday since the incident got national attention.
“Calls my name, Mickey, throws it at me and I catch it with my right hand and I was just instantly upset, disgust, angry but more I was stunned,” said Mikel Neal.
Neal said it took at least two weeks for him to tell his wife.
“Total disbelief. My heart ached. I couldn’t imagine how he had been dealing with that alone,” said Rachelle Fears-Neal.
Rachelle said it’s a painful reminder of one her relatives, one of two black men hanged near the very spot of Wednesday’s news conference in August, 1930.
Marion native, Pearl Bassett, who will be turning 104 soon, lived it.
“Can’t imagine that anybody would go back that many years and what was in their heart, in their mind,” said Bassett.
Assistant Fire Chief Rick Backs issued the following statement:
“One of the many knots I tied during a standard knot tying exercise offended a fellow colleague. I have sincerely apologized to this person. My actions were not racially motivated and in no way did I intend to hurt, intimidate, or imply any negative connotations. While I had no malicious intent, tying that particular knot showed poor judgement and I understand the feelings of those I offended. I’ve been a member of this community my entire life and have dedicated my career to helping others with the Marion Fire Department. I sincerely apologize for my actions.”
Despite that, Neal said he never did get a personal apology. However, the door is open.
“We have to acknowledge our trespass against our fellow brother and at that point in time, we can begin the healing process,” said Walter Madison, the Neal family’s attorney.
Neal heads back to work Friday.
The family is more concerned with the community’s long-term future.
“We want to honor the families that were involved in that lynching and this is our community, ours meaning everyone that has made Marion their home,” said Fears-Neal.