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A firefighter who was recently fired by the Camden Fire Department is suing for harassment and retaliation, alleging a captain at Tower Ladder Company 2 “habitually” made threatening racist comments.

Shane Streater alleges that he was discharged shortly after he began complaining about the harassment. He says the department charged him with numerous performance problems, including insubordination, before firing him.

Streater alleges his supervisor, Capt. Russell Watkins, said that he knew “white guys with machetes,” that “white boys with machetes ain’t no joke” and that “there’s going to be a race war coming, and there’s a militia in every state.”

Streater says he complained to another fire department captain and firefighters’ union President Kenneth Chambers, but nothing happened. Chambers “made a joke of the situation,” suggesting Streater should “beat [Watkins] down,” the lawsuit alleges.

After Streater complained to the New Jersey Department of Law & Public Safety, Division on Civil Rights, the city launched an investigation, but found no evidence to back Streater’s allegations.

The city asked a U.S. District Court to dismiss the case, but the judge ruled there were sufficient grounds to send the case on to trial.

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