Investigators: stuffed monkey at Mo. firehouse not a hate crime

By Jake Wagman and Robert Patrick
St. Louis Post-Dispatch

ST. LOUIS, Mo. — The FBI has ruled out racial hatred as the motive for hanging a stuffed monkey doll inside a city fire station, the agency said Thursday.

The monkey was discovered earlier this month at an engine house in the city's Hamilton Heights neighborhood.

Pictures distributed by the black firefighters' association show the doll, wearing a striped shirt and overalls, draped by its neck from a strap on a coat hanger.

Amid suggestions that the strap might have been intended to emulate a noose, City Hall asked the FBI to investigate.

Though the incident may have unintentionally provoked tempers in a department already divided by race, it was not a hate crime, according to the FBI.

"There was no noose," said John Gillies, special agent in charge of the FBI office here. "No noose. No hatred." The stuffed animal, Gillies said, had been in the fire department for weeks.

His comment follows a version of events offered by the firefighters' union. The president of Local 73 said earlier that the monkey had been found at a fire scene and placed on the coat rack to dry.

Gillies also dismissed as a "firehouse prank" an apparent response at another station, where a box of crackers was hung up.

Even so, there may still be some repercussions from the inquiry. Gillies said the FBI uncovered potential violations of internal policies that could be investigated later by the fire department. Gillies declined to identify the nature of the possible infractions.

According to the mayor's office, the fire department will not launch its own review until a final report is prepared by the FBI. The FBI, though, is itself looking at threats that were sparked by the monkey incident and left in the comment section of an Internet blog.

"If you are offended by what you believe happened and then make threats ... that's equally wrong," Gillies said.

Racial tension in the city's fire department has been especially high since ex-chief Sherman George, the first African-American to lead the department, was ousted in October.

Addington Stewart, head of the black firefighters association, declined to comment when asked about the FBI's review.

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