BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - No one is disputing the N-word flew off the tongue of a Baton Rouge fire captain inside a fire station, but the man who said it, Derin Hairford, says it's all being blown way out of proportion.
"I was wrong. I said it. I admit that I said it. I'm not trying to hide it. But I didn't say it the way that it's being said that I said it. That's not me."
Hairford, a 27-year firefighter, says that on August 14, he left a meeting to hear about his upcoming retirement. He was excited when he walked back in the firehouse and said, "This [expletive] is outta here."
Another firefighter heard his use of the word and filed an official complaint to Chief Ed Smith. He said he felt violated, so an official investigation was launched.
"If I had maliciously went after him and called him that, then I could understand it, but I never referred to him that way - in any way," Hairford explained. "I didn't mean it toward him in any way. I was referring to me. Myself."
The case was turned over the city's Human Resource Department.
"All of the individuals who were present were interviewed," said Chad Major, assistant to the fire chief. "It took them 3 to 4 weeks to complete the findings. They recommended diversity training for Hairford."
Last week, Hairford says he was given the choice to take a ten day suspension without pay, or face termination. He says he chose the lesser of two evils and opted for the ten days suspension.
"I'm not a racist guy," he said. "I don't single out any individual. I try to get along with all my men."
All of his men, however, are now involved. The fire department has ordered all Baton Rouge Firefighters to take part in diversity training classes, which will be conducted by the city.
"I wish I'd used a different word," he said. "But I can't go back and redo what i said."
Hairford's suspension is set to begin on Oct. 31, which is the day he would have returned from vacation.
The dates of the diversity classes are in the process of being scheduled.