If there are any subjects on which Republicans and Democrats can still agree, one would hope that a charity event in honor of a murdered police officer would be among them. Yes, one would hope, but one would be disappointed.
Next month brings the anniversary of the shooting at the Borderline Bar and Grill in Thousand Oaks, Calif., an hour’s drive up the 101 Freeway from downtown Los Angeles. At about 11:20 p.m. last Nov. 7, a single gunman entered the bar and opened fire without warning. He murdered twelve people before taking his own life.
The last person to be shot was Sgt. Ron Helus, of the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department, who entered the bar with an officer from the California Highway Patrol. While hiding in an office equipped with security camera monitors, the gunman was able to watch the officers approach and then spring a perfectly-timed ambush. Sgt. Helus was hit by five of the gunman’s rounds but, in the confusion of the gunfight, he found himself between the gunman and his fellow officer. As was revealed a month after the shooting, it was a bullet from the CHP officer’s rifle that pierced Sgt. Helus’s heart and killed him.
This Sunday, a charity flag-football game was to be held at Newbury Park High School, with the proceeds going to Sgt. Helus’s family and those of other fallen law enforcement officers. It will not take place as scheduled.
On Wednesday, Fox 11 in Los Angeles reported the event has been canceled for the pettiest of reasons: local political squabbles. According to the Fox 11 report, some people in the area were displeased that supporters of President Trump would be among the speakers. Actor Scott Baio, a Trump supporter who attended church with the Helus family, was to speak, and Joy Villa was to sing the national anthem. But also slated to attend was Governor Gavin Newsom’s public safety liaison, who we may assume holds different opinions on Mr. Trump.
So the football game was not to be about politics, yet the reasons for its cancellation apparently are. Fox 11 spoke with the event’s organizer, Mike Randall, who said the presence of Trump supporters was challenged by Ventura County Sheriff Captain Tim Hagel, who heads the patrol station covering Thousand Oaks.
Here’s the most shocking passage from the Fox 11 report:
Randall says in a phone call that Hagel questioned why the Trump supporters were invited.
“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, 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?” Randall said.
Fox 11 also reported that Capt. Hagel had been contacted by Jacqui Irwin, a Democrat who represents the area in the state assembly. She objected that her Republican opponent in the previous election had been invited to the event.
When Randall refused to disinvite the Republicans, Capt. Hagel told him the Sheriff’s Department would no longer participate, which led to the withdrawal of corporate sponsors and the event’s cancellation.
How proud Capt. Hagel must be. Proud but, if the above quote is accurate, misinformed. According to the New York Times electoral map of the 2016 election, Hillary Clinton did indeed win handily in Ventura County, beating Mr. Trump by a 55-37 margin. But Hagel’s purported declaration that “We don’t want Republicans around here” overstates matters. Mr. Trump carried several precincts in Ventura County, including the very one where Capt. Hagel’s station is located. How discomfiting it must be for Republicans living and working in the area to know their top cop holds them in such contempt.
It’s unfortunate that petty politics ruined what would have been a fitting tribute to a local hero. Sgt. Helus’s family deserves better, and his colleagues who still mourn him deserve a better leader than Tim Hagel.