Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

Proud Boys ties cited as officer fired

- HANNAH KNOWLES

A police agency in California has fired a longtime officer after investigat­ing his ties to the Proud Boys, denouncing the far-right extremists.

The officer, Rick Fitzgerald, rallied with the Proud Boys in November at a pro-Donald Trump demonstrat­ion that devolved into violence, which was captured in video clips that resurfaced last month as online sleuths dug into Fitzgerald’s history. Announcing Fitzgerald’s firing on Friday, Fresno Police Chief Paco Balderrama said he disapprove­s of “any police officer” affiliatin­g with violent or hateful groups.

“Such ideology, behavior and affiliatio­ns have no place in law enforcemen­t and will not be tolerated within the ranks of the Fresno Police Department,” Balderrama said in a statement, without specifying exactly why Fitzgerald was ousted.

Police department­s around the country are moving to root out officers with extremist ties after a pro-Trump crowd rioted at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. Off-duty officers face charges in the insurrecti­on, and so do affiliates of the Proud Boys.

Fitzgerald said he has been unfairly smeared after nearly two decades of good work on the police force, adding that he rejects violence and racism. He asserted that he “never saw any sign of any kind of racism” with the Proud Boys, though he said someone was once expelled from a chat after posting something “Nazi-related.”

He said he left the Proud Boys after the November rally, dismayed at other members’ actions.

In a YouTube video from earlier this year, however, Fitzgerald encouraged people to join all kinds of far-right groups. He went on to promote his own small organizati­on, the Sons of ’76, as a group of “gentleman combatants.”

The Fresno police said they launched an internal affairs investigat­ion in mid-March after seeing allegation­s that Fitzgerald was affiliated with the Proud Boys.

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