Fresno officer with former ties to extremist group fired
FRESNO, Calif. (AP) — A Fresno police officer who is a former member of the extremist Proud Boys group has been fired, it was announced Friday.
Officer Rick Fitzgerald had been on paid leave since an internal police investigation was launched last month after some people said he was seen wearing clothing associated with the white nationalist group while attending a rally in support of selling a local theatre to a church.
“It is clear to me that there were egregious violations of department policy,” Mayor Jerry Dyer said in a statement. “I am pleased that Officer Fitzgerald will no longer be serving as a police officer with the city of Fresno.”
“As mayor, I want to reiterate to the community that I will not tolerate any form of racism displayed by city of Fresno employees,” he said.
Fitzgerald told CBS47 in Fresno that he denied any current involvement with the Proud Boys, saying he had left the group six months ago “for my own reasons.”
“I don’t have a racist bone in my body,” he said. “Ask anybody I’ve worked with. I have 18 years in a department where I’m such a raving racist that nobody can find anything to substantiate that.”
“My grandmother’s full Mexican, so I’m not even a full white guy,” he said.
He remains under investigation.
Police Chief Paco Balderrama told the Fresno Bee that the department worked with other agencies, including the FBI, to determine that no other officers were members of the Proud Boys or any other hate group.
“Due to the legal constraints surrounding personnel matters, I am unable to give further details,” Balderrama said in a statement. “However, I stand by and reassert my prior comments in strongly disapproving of any police officer affiliating with hate groups, or any group known for engaging in violent criminal behavior.