A charity football tournament was originally planned for Oct. 6 to honor Sgt. Ron Helus’ who died in the Borderline Bar & Grill shooting, and to raise money for his family. However, after months of planning, the event named “Blue Bowl” was cancelled after tensions between Ventura County’s Sheriff’s Office and organizers arose.
The organization coordinating the event for Helus was The Fallen Officers. According to their website, The Fallen Officers is an organization that helps support the families of police officers who die in the line of duty. Led by President Rosemary Zore and Vice President Michael Randall, the desire to honor Helus prompted them to plan an event for him.
“Ron Helus was a true hero,” Randall said via email. “He saved lives that night and gave the ultimate sacrifice and we wanted to remember his sacrifice and honor his family with The Ron Helus Blue Bowl Co-Ed Flag Football Tournament.”
Ventura County Sheriff Bill Ayub said the event, proposed shortly after the Borderline shooting, seemed very promising initially. The Ventura County Sheriff’s Office was willing to help coordinate, Ayub said.
“It sounded great. Sports tend to be a unifying event that seems to bring communities together and it sounded like a good idea,” Ayub said.
However, as the event got closer, Ayub and other members of the Sheriff’s Office started noticing that The Fallen Officers organization had modified the event to include a political tone, Ayub said.
Ayub said the organizers lost the original vision of the event, which was to honor Helus and his family, but instead focused more on a program consisting of guests with clear political agendas.
“The promoters, at least in my view, changed the event to include kind of a program if you will,” Ayub said. “And the program in my estimation was taking political overtones… and I grew uncomfortable with that.”
Thousand Oaks Chief of Police Tim Hagel has been outspoken about his concerns with the event. According to the Thousand Oaks Acorn, Hagel told Zore and Randall that “this is not Trump country.” Hagel considered some of the speakers to not fit with the values of the community, The Acorn said.
The guests added to the event were actor Scott Baio, singer Joy Villa and Ronda Kennedy, a Republican candidate for California’s 26th Congressional District in the U.S. House. All three support Trump.
Randall said the intention of the event was never to be political and he said he was shocked to hear Hagel and others believed it was. Randall said Assembly Member Jacqui Irwin was another person who thought the event was politically motivated. The Acorn reported that Randall believed Irwin encouraged the Sheriff’s Office to back out when Kennedy was added. Irwin and Kennedy ran against each other for Assembly last November.
“Our events have never been political. That is why we’re so taken back. We couldn’t believe this was happening,” Randall said. “We felt that we just got hit in the stomach and although we were in complete shock we tried everything to get this terrible decision corrected.”
Without support from the Sheriff’s Office and Helus’ family, who according to the Acorn upported the department’s decesion to pull out, Randall said it was impossible to continue. Helus’ family provided a press release, where Karen Helus said she is deeply disappointed with the way things turned out.
In the statement, Helus’ son, Jordan Helus said The Fallen Officers did not do anything wrong in inviting various speakers. He said their attempt to paint Hagel as a “villain” led to the cancellation.
After the Sheriff’s Office backed out, sponsors and teams began pulling out as well, Randall said.
Thousand Oaks Mayor Rob McCoy, who supports Trump, said he considers Hagel to be one of the finest men he knows, but recognizes that Hagel should have communicated better with Randall.
McCoy said he has received emails from conservatives explaining to him that they will not vote for his re-election. McCoy said it is more important for him to stand by Hagel.
“Tim [Hagel] owned what he said, he’s not trying to cover himself up and he’s getting beat up,” McCoy said. “If I don’t get re-elected it’s worth it because I’m going to stand by a good man… I’m okay with that.”