A Fresno police officer accused of supporting the nationalist Proud Boys group is no longer with the department, Mayor Jerry Dyer and Police Chief Paco Balderrama said Friday.

Officer Rick Fitzgerald was put on paid leave on March 14, when a social media user spotted him at the weekly Tower Theatre sale protest. The user then connected Fitzgerald to a Sacramento protest where he was photographed wearing Proud Boys attire.

Fitzgerald was terminated, the city said in a Tweet.

The Proud Boys is classified as a hate group or alt-right group by anti-defamation organizations. In February, the Canadian government designated the Proud Boys as a terrorist organization. The group is banned from social media platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter.

In addition, members of the Proud Boys have been indicted by the U.S. Department of Justice for their alleged involvement in the attack on the U.S. Capitol in January.

“After discussions with Chief Balderrama regarding the ongoing internal investigation of Officer Rick Fitzgerald, who is accused of participating with the Proud Boys extremist group, it is clear to me that there were egregious violations of department policy,” Dyer said in a news release.

“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,” Dyer continued.

Fitzgerald Attorney: Due Process Not Followed

The move comes as a surprise to Roger Wilson, the police union attorney defending Fitzgerald. He said the city “jumped a few steps.”

“I don’t know the grounds for it. I know that there was an ongoing investigation. And in fact, Officer Fitzgerald was scheduled to be interviewed about the allegations next week. And apparently that’s been called off because he’s been terminated,” Wilson said.

Wilson alleges the city was not fair to Fitzgerald.

“There are statutory due process rights that municipalities and cities and counties have to follow. And that appears to not be the case regarding Officer Fitzgerald,” Wilson said.

An appeal or lawsuit is possible, Wilson said.

In previous statements, Wilson said his client was a former member of the Proud Boys, but has since left that group. That should not be enough evidence to fire him.

“I wouldn’t think that would be sufficient grounds unless they believe he engaged in some conduct while he was a member of that association or group — whatever they call themselves — gives cause for for grounds to terminate. Again, I don’t know what they think he has done,” Wilson said.

Police spokesman Lt. Rob Beckwith says Wilson “was provided documentation,” but did not specify as to what.

When Fitzgerald was put on leave last month, Fresno County District Attorney Lisa Smittcamp said her office “has proactively taken steps to identify all cases involving Officer Fitzgerald.”

Smittcamp’s office has not provided an update on their investigation.

Officer Rick Fitzgerald (left) seen at a Tower Theatre protest on March 14 (GV Wire/David Taub)

Balderrama Makes Comment

Fresno Police Chief Paco Balderrama suspended Fitzgerald hours after receiving reports he was accused of taking part in prior Proud Boys events.

“Due to the legal constraints surrounding personnel matters, I am unable to give further details,” Balderrama said in a prepared 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.

“Such ideology, behavior, and affiliations have no place in law enforcement and will not be tolerated within the ranks of the Fresno Police Department. Public trust and accountability are paramount in our ability to fairly police this community. The integrity and legitimacy of our Police Department must be maintained.”

March 14 Tower Event

Every Sunday since January, protesters have gathered at the Tower Theatre, opposing a potential sale to Adventure Church. On March 14, counterdemonstrators appeared as well.

Fitzgerald attended, standing quietly across the street wearing clothing associated with another patriot-oriented group “Sons of ’76.” He was not recognized by the media covering the event.

A Twitter user called “Borwin10” recognized Fitzgerald through a video stream from conservative activist and self-admitted Proud Boy, Eddie Block.

Browin10 linked Fitzgerald to pictures of man with similar tattoos in Proud Boys garb at a demonstration in Sacramento last year.

Within hours of the connection, Balderrama took action, suspending Fitzgerald. City councilman Miguel Arias called for an independent probe.

John Gliatta, head of the Fresno Office of Independent Review, said the police department had been keeping him informed of their investigation.

He said he is unlikely to review the case himself, as the OIR does not usually look into cases where a police officer or employee is initially found of wrongdoing in an internal investigation.

8 Responses

  1. Ron Sherrin

    Anyone wanna bet that Fitzgerald is a loyal Trump zombie, avid KMJ listener, a mask denier, and thinks COVID-19 is a hoax? Most importantly he is a Valley Republican. True colors. Mean, angry and stupid. Thanks to Jerry & Paco for doing the right thing. Trump’s America was an ugly place made possible with votes from Dyer…and me in 2016. How wrong I was.

    • Bruce Leichty

      Sue the City. Everyone in this country is entitled to rights of free speech and association. And fair process and that includes police. There are many persons tarred with the racist and hater brushes who are neither. Jerry and Paco should focus on real crime-fighting like the meth scourge allowed to dominate the City, not on pleasing closed-minded Republican-haters like Ron Sherrin.

    • Valley Native

      Anyone wanna bet that Sherrin is a loyal Biden zombie, avid CNN/MSNBC watcher, quadruple mask wearer and thinks COVID-19 came from a wet market in China? Most inmportantly he is a Valley Democrat. Tru colors. Arrogant, angry, and stupid. Thanks to Jerry and Paco for buying into this devisive racist agenda BS. Biden’s America is an uglier place made possible with by votes from Ron and his sycophants’ friends.

      Keep writing Ron, you make me laugh.

      • Ray

        Valley Native really ? You must want someone to grab you by the P***y . You guys guys lost get over it !

    • Paul

      Thank you for sharing and bringing to light the”ugly Americans” who falsely profess patriotism as their mantra. You might also add another local name to the list ..Devin Nunes. His podcasts are so far right and riddled with conspiracy theories, passive-aggressive hate, and a friend of Mr. Florida, M. Gaetz.

      • Stev

        Very interesting. I hope the Mayor and Mr. Paco are going to be consistent and fire any officer who said or did anything in support of BLM. If not, we may be more screwed as a city than I currently believe we are. The leadership of Black Lives Matter Inc. are avowed Marxists and want to overthrow of our government and Constitution. Plus, BLM appears to be racist to the extreme and for sure anti-semitic. It appears that being supportive on violent anti-Semites is just fine with the chief and the mayor. I hope I’m wrong and there is action coming. BLM Members have participated in burning down American cities, and I believe inciting violence, and have been caught on tape threatening more violence. To my knowledge, And I have looked, The Proud Boys have done nothing even close to that. The PB’s have been very supportive of law enforcement and have helped them in identifying BLM and Anitfa perpetrators of violence. The admitted lesbians who founded and run BLM Inc as a for profit business, are truly extreme. They have sent representatives to terrorist supporting countries for training. I don’t think it was training to win a spelling bee Mr Mayor. Sounds extreme and tending to violence and we shouldn’t have officers who want to do away with our Constitution and support these type of violent anti-American, anti-Semitic organizations. Do I support the PB’s? Do I support this fired officer? I don’t know enough to do either, But I know bullshit when I see it. The only violence I have seen PB’s engage in is reactive violence to being attacked by Antifa and BLM members. I haven’t seen 1 un-doctored video showing them as aggressors, not one. I have seen some doctored videos run by CNN but was able to compare them against the unedited versions, in context. Is the Mayor and Police Chief ignorant of the facts? Do they have facts on TPB’s that no one has seen? If I call the Mayor a ham sandwich, does that make it true? No it doesn’t. Just like the media or Marxist Democrats calling TPB’s violent extremists doesn’t make it so. I, for one, need to see proof. Especially after what the Media, Justice Dept and FBI have been caught doing lately. I’m suspicious of anything without evidence attached, I hope you are as well. We used to be a God fearing nation that wanted and needed PROOF before condemning someone. What the mayor and Mr Paco cited as “evidence” appears to be nothing more than opinion, and mainly the opinion of wild eyed liberals. Such evidence is never allowed in court, yet the current and former police chief have convicted on that alone. That should make EVERYONE nervous because of the power these people wield. God help us all if I’m proven correct.

      • Stev

        Ron and Paul? Do you guys hear yourselves? Calling OTHER people hateful? Really? Unbelievable….well, not really unbelievable, considering.

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