Organizers say a charity flag football event meant to honor a deputy killed in the 2018 Borderline mass shooting was canceled because a Democratic politician and local police chief objected to Republicans and supporters of President Donald Trump attending.
Mike Randall, Vice President of the Fallen Officers Foundation, says Thousand Oaks Police Chief Tim Hagel convinced other organizations to pull out of the Blue Bowl, which would have honored the life of Ventura County Sgt. Ron Helus and was set to take place on Sunday.
“He 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,'” Randall said in an interview with Fox 11 aired on Wednesday.
“I could not believe it. We were totally floored by this comment: ‘the only thing,’ and I quote, ‘the only thing you coulda made this worse, Mike, was to invite Dick Cheney and Sarah Huckabee Sanders.’ And I went…’Wow, are you kidding me?'” he added.
The event would have featured pro-Trump celebrities Scott Baio and Joy Villa as speakers.
According to Randall, Hagel said he’d been contacted by Democratic Assemblywoman Jacqui Irwin, who was upset that a previous election opponent, local Republican attorney Ronda Kennedy, had been invited.
Hagel allegedly threatened to get the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department and local politicians to pull out of the Blue Bowl, if the pro-Trump speakers and Republicans weren’t booted from the event.
Randall’s refusal to cave prompted a text from Hagel.
“He goes ‘yeah this ain’t gonna work for us.’ I said you’re not gonna support this with the honor guard?” Randall told Fox 11. “And he goes ‘no we’re not bringing the honor guard. We’re not coming. We’re not going to be there – not supporting it.'”
After the text exchange, sponsors and politicians pulled out, Randall said.
Fox 11 reached out to the Thousand Oaks Police Department and were referred to the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department.
In a statement, Sheriff Bill Ayub said the department “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,” Ayub said.
In a followup statement to Fox 11, Ayub said the Blue Bowl’s organizers “seemed to become more focused on political agendas” as the date of the event approached.
“I felt it was in the best interest of the department, the victims, and our community to not directly participate in the event, which the organizers have since cancelled,” Ayub added.
The Blue Bowl has been postponed indefinitely.
Sgt. Helus’ widow, Karen Helus, said in a statement obtained by Fox 11 that she was “saddened and disappointed” that the charity fundraiser had “turned into politically charged national news story.”
” I feel it is important to remind everyone that I have met our President on several occasions and continue to respect and support him due to his unwavering support of my family and all law enforcement,” Helus said.
She also thanked the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office.
“They have been with me every step of the way from accompanying me to highly publicized charitable fundraisers to getting my nails done and going to lunch,” Helus said in the statement.