The head of the Kansas City firefighters' union said he finds it difficult to believe that fellow firefighter Jeremy Skeen spat on an African-American child and used a racial slur to refer to the child at an Overland Park restaurant last week.
Bill Galvin said the accusation surprises him because Skeen, who is white, has been very public about his own intolerance of bigotry.
"On his Facebook page, before this happened, he said anybody who talks bad about race, or religion or sexual orientation, he would unfriend them," said Galvin, president of Local 42 of the International Association of Fire Fighters. "It’s one of those deals where, and I don’t know, I wasn't there, but he wouldn't be the guy to do something like that."
Skeen could not be reached for comment. His Facebook page is no longer publicly available. But the website heavy.com got a look at the February 2016 post to which Galvin referred before the page was taken down.
The post read: "When you make inappropriate comments about someone's race, religions, sexual orientation, or beliefs (joking or not), you get removed from my friends list. Yes, you are entitled to your opinions....I just don't care to hear them!"
Skeen, 42, is set to appear on April 3 in Overland Park municipal court to face misdemeanor charges of battery, assault and disorderly conduct in connection with the alleged incident Feb. 26 at the Hooters restaurant at 10620 Metcalf Ave.
A witness told KCTV5 he heard Skeen use the N word in referring to the 3-year-old boy. The child had wandered away from the table where his family was celebrating a birthday.
In a news release issued on Wednesday, Overland Park said "witnesses" reported hearing the slur and seeing Skeen spit on the child and said the matter had been referred to the FBI "for any further investigation they determine is necessary."
Reached Thursday, Kansas City Fire Department spokesman James Garrett said the department will "wait for adjudication” before deciding on whether to impose any disciplinary action. He declined to comment further beyond a statement issued Wednesday. It said city employees attend diversity and harassment training every two to three years. The most recent round began in November and 84 percent of fire department personnel have completed it.
Galvin said he, too, will reserve judgment until all the facts are in.
"If he did do it, he'll have to deal with that," Galvin said. "But there were witnesses there who said he didn’t do it."
The Star reached a member of the boy's family through Facebook and asked if she or another family member would be willing to comment on the incident. No one responded immediately.