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California police officer fired over ties to Proud Boys extremist group

Fresno police Chief Paco Balderrama called the Proud Boys a "hate group."

A California police officer associated with the far-right extremist group Proud Boys has been fired, officials announced Friday.

Rick Fitzgerald, then an officer with the Fresno Police Department, allegedly participated in a Proud Boys counter-demonstration on March 14 outside a theater being sold to a church that protesters said was hostile to the LGBTQ community and marriage equality.

Fitzgerald was placed on leave the following day, and his firing was made public Friday by Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer and police Chief Paco Balderrama, following an investigation.

"It is clear to me there were egregious violations of department policy," 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."

Balderrama, citing the Southern Poverty Law Center, called the Proud Boys a "hate group" and said in a statement, "I stand by and reassert my prior comments in strongly disapproving of any police officer affiliating with hate groups."

Neither Fitzgerald nor the Fresno Police Officers Association could immediately be reached for comment.

The day after the demonstration, the police union called the allegation of Fitzgerald's Proud Boys participation "very troubling" and said it supported an investigation by the police department.

At least 19 associates of the Proud Boys, which was founded in 2016 by Vice publication co-founder Gavin McInnes as a group for "western chauvinists," have been charged in connection with the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.