California Cop Investigated Over Alleged Proud Boys Links

An officer with the Fresno Police Department in California has been placed on administrative leave over his alleged ties to the far-right Proud Boys group.

An investigation has been launched after images and videos believed to be of Officer Rick Fitzgerald taking part in a Proud Boys counterprotest were shared online.

Fitzgerald is accused of being with the Proud Boys, listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, during Sunday's protest against the selling of Fresno's historic Tower Theatre.

The officer was identified after allegedly being spotted in a video of the protest posted onto YouTube by former Proud Boys Eddie Block. Fitzgerald is also alleged to have urged people online to join the Proud Boys, as well as the far-right extremist Three Percenters group, reported The Fresno Bee.

Members of both groups took part in the insurrection at the Capitol on January 6.

Fitzgerald also told a podcast that he was part of the local Proud Boys group for about a year and obtained leadership level of membership before he left.

"Although at this point these are merely allegations, and the matter will be fully investigated, it is important to maintain the integrity and legitimacy of our police department," Fresno Police Chief Paco Balderrama said in the statement.

"Any allegations of actions unbecoming of a police officer or the affiliation with any alleged criminal or hate group will always be investigated and addressed. Fair and impartial policing are extremely important in our society.

"There is no place in our police ranks for any biased, racists, or anti-Semitic views."

Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer, a former Fresno Police officer, added in a statement: "These images are extremely disturbing and are being taken very seriously.

"As the mayor of this city, I will not tolerate any city of Fresno employee belonging to organizations that promote views of supremacy, racism or criminal conduct. This matter is under investigation and appropriate action will be taken to address any misconduct."

Sunday's protest was against the proposals for the iconic Tower Theatre to be sold to the Adventure Church, an evangelical religious group who are accused of being anti-LGBT.

Speaking to Your Central Valley, Jaguar Bennet, one of the main organizers of the weekly Tower Theatre protests, questioned why the Proud Boys even arrived to counter the rally.

"I have no idea why they're there," Bennet said. "This is a local neighborhood dispute about zoning. I don't see how this has any political implications that would interest the Proud Boys."

The Fresno Police Department has been contacted for comment.

proud boys
Members of the Proud Boys march towards Freedom Plaza during a protest on December 12, 2020 in Washington, D.C. An officer with the Fresno Police Departmentid being investigated over his alleged ties to the far-right extremist group. Stephanie Keith/Getty Images