FDNY rookie and Navy vet hazed by Queens firefighters for his race, PTSD: suit

Queens firefighters hazed a rookie colleague for being Hispanic and suffering from PTSD after his time in the U.S. Navy, a lawsuit alleges.

Joseph Mendoza, who is of Peruvian descent, claims racist smoke-eaters at Engine 297/Ladder 130 in College Point called him a “spic” and “Columbian drug lord.”

One colleague nicknamed him “Machete,” after actor Danny Trejo’s Mexican-assassin film character, according to Mendoza’s Brooklyn federal court lawsuit.

The co-worker, identified in court papers as Levy Matthews, allegedly left a machete on top of Mendoza’s locker, and once told him, “Wow! They let the MS-13 join the FDNY now. Where the f–k did they find you?” according to the claim against the city and FDNY.

The “mainly white men from Long Island” who staffed the firehouse erupted in chants of “Build the wall!” upon President Trump’s 2016 election, court papers say, with Matthews exclaiming, “Yes! Finally the wall is going to be built. Sorry Mendoza, your family isn’t welcomed here no more.”

Matthews could not be reached; no listings for the name appear in a database of public employees compiled by SeeThroughNY. A firefighter named Matthew Levy who once worked in the Queens firehouse declined to comment on Mendoza’s accusations.

FDNY Engine 297/Ladder 130
Mendoza was subjected to racist treatment at Engine 297/Ladder 130, the lawsuit alleges.
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The colleagues knew Mendoza’s father was in the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, according to the claim.

Some fellow firefighters also dismissed Mendoza’s military service, repeatedly telling him to “man up” about his “so-called” depression and PTSD, he charges in court papers.

Mendoza left the Navy in 2010 and joined the FDNY in 2015. He’s part of a growing list of rookie firefighters to claim they were hazed, and the second firefighter to claim in a lawsuit that FDNY co-workers slammed his military service.

Mendoza voluntarily checked into rehab in 2018, and was later denied a return to full-duty status, he claims, after the FDNY requested he first take a drug test.

He served a 30-day suspension and was reassigned to light duty at FDNY headquarters — but charges in the lawsuit the FDNY began termination proceedings a year later, alleging he’d attempted to “bribe the [drug] test taker,” a claim Mendoza says was later proved unfounded.

Mendoza is seeking unspecified damages. The city Law Department declined comment, noting it hadn’t been served with the lawsuit.


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