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Charity Event for Mass Shooting Victims Canceled after City Officials Object to Republicans’ Participation

Sheriff’s deputy Sergeant Ron Helus, killed when a gunman opened fire at a crowded southern California bar in Thousand Oaks, Calif., in November 2018. (Ventura County Sheriff's Office/Handout via Reuters)

A charity event in honor of a police officer killed while responding to a mass shooting in Thousand Oaks, California last year has been canceled after the local police chief and a Democratic politician objected to the participation of prominent Republicans, according to organizers who spoke with a local Fox affiliate.

The event, a flag-football game called the Blue Bowl, was supposed to have taken place at Newbury Park High School in Thousand Oaks. Los Angeles Rams football players were scheduled to show up and sign footballs imprinted with pictures of the fallen officer, Sgt. Ron Helus. And thousands of dollars, which will now be returned to donors, had already been raised for Helus’ family.

Organizers claim that Thousand Oaks Police Chief Tim Hagel tried to undermine the fundraiser by telling its sponsors to pull out due to the scheduled participation of Trump supporters in the event line up.

Actor Scott Baio and singer Joy Villa, both Trump backers, were poised to appear, with Villa scheduled to sing the national anthem. Baio was a member of Helus’ church. The public safety advisor to California Governor Gavin Newsom was also scheduled to attend, making the event a bipartisan affair.

Mike Randall, Vice President of the Fallen Officers Foundation and an organizer of the Blue Bowl, described a phone conversation between himself and Hagel to the to the local Fox affiliate on Tuesday: “[Hagel] basically said over and over in the conversation this is not Trump country, that slogan ‘Make America Great’ is not favorable, popular, within 1,200 square miles, that we don’t want Republicans here, I could not believe it…”

Randall alleged that Hagel threatened to pull the Venturas County Sheriff’s Department from the event and to advise local politicians to back out as well. When Randall refused, Hagel followed through and informed him that the police honor guard would cancel its planned appearance.

That led other organizations to withdraw their participation. The Blue Bowl has been put on hold indefinitely as a result.

According to Randall, Hagel also said that Democratic Assemblywoman Jacqui Irwin had contacted him to complain that her former opponent in the elections had been invited to the event.

When asked for comment, the Venturas County Sheriff’s Department issued a statement saying, “As the event began to materialize, we became concerned with the behavior of some of the organizers of the event. Although I believe the organizers had good intentions, the event was moving in a direction we no longer felt comfortable supporting.”

Zachary Evans is a news writer for National Review Online. He is a veteran of the Israeli Defense Forces and a trained violist.

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