Mustache on Photo of Chief Ellerbe Draws Fire

What seemed like a joke at one of D.C.’s oldest fire houses prompted an official investigation this week.

Someone at Engine 10 on Florida Avenue in Northeast drew a mustache on the official photo of D.C. Fire Chief Kenneth Ellerbe and turned it upside down, which led to a destruction of property investigation, sources told News4.

A deputy chief and a lieutenant dressed down the company, demanding respect for the chief and threatening criminal charges.

“You don’t want to be in here in this agency or under the direction of the fire chief, there’s nothing holding you back,” an official can be heard saying on a recording obtained by News4. “But as long as he’s the fire chief, we all have to respect him.”

“The reason I asked who handled the pictures is because there are going to be some charge,” that official said. “At that point, whatever the fire chief decides to do, because at that point, you’re at his mercy.”

Police were called, and a formal crime report was filed. Evidence technicians apparently dusted the photo frame for fingerprints.

The chief’s mercy may not be so severe. He downplayed the incident Thursday.

“I heard about it, but it’s probably just something that’s blown out of proportion,” Ellerbe said. “I talked to our internal affairs, told them don’t even worry about it.”

“I guess whether they like me or not I’ll be the chief, but I can’t worry about that stuff,” he added. “We have a lot of serious stuff to take care of, to think about, and putting mustaches on pictures is not one of those high priority items.”

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