By JOSH FRIEDMAN
A San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s investigator last month spotted a Cal Poly student removing blue ribbons honoring slain police detective Luca Benedetti while driving Benedetti’s widow, leading to a heated confrontation.
The investigator ended up detaining the student and waiting for the arrival of San Luis Obispo police officers, who ultimately let the man go. The student, English senior Alex Catlett, told the Tribune the DA’s investigator angrily confronted him, pushed him and scratched his face while ripping off his mask.
On May 17, a DA’s investigator was driving Benedetti’s widow in his car in San Luis Obispo when he saw a man with scissors cutting down the blue ribbons that lined the street near Osos and Mill streets. The man was carrying a 13-gallon trash bag full of blue ribbons similar to the ones the investigator observed him removing. Benedetti’s widow could also see what was happening, District Attorney Dan Dow said in a statement.
The investigator, who was in civilian clothing, confronted the man, informing him what he was doing was illegal and wrong. The man tossed the bag of cut ribbons at the investigator and walked away, Dow said in the statement.
In attempt to identify the man, the investigator reached for the man’s face covering and pulled it off. While doing so, the investigator scratched the man’s face, according to the DA’s office.
The DA’s investigator briefly spoke with another witness, who was also upset over the removal of the ribbons. The investigator called the SLO Police Department and reported what he saw.
Several minutes later, the investigator saw the man continuing to remove ribbons from parking meters in the downtown corridor. At that point, the investigator identified himself as an officer and detained the man.
Police officers arrived at the scene and spoke with the man, who was cooperative and apologetic. The man said he did not understand the significant impact removing the ribbons would have.
No one requested charges, and officers allowed the man to leave. However, unauthorized removal or destruction of public property may constitute theft or vandalism, Dow said in the statement.
Despite the incident involving a personnel matter, which could enable the DA’s office to refrain from disclosing it, the investigator agreed to allow the information be released to the public. The DA’s office is conducting an internal review of the incident.
On the other side, the suspected vandal accuses the investigator and police of bad behavior.
Alex Catlett told the Tribune the investigator attacked him. The Cal Poly student did not know what he was doing was illegal, and he was bothered by the “Blue Lives Matter” message of the ribbons, he said. [Tribune]
There were like a billion blue ribbons, and the Blue Lives Matter flags are blatant racism, Catlett said.
Upon noticing Catlett, the investigator slammed on his breaks while driving and began yelling and cursing at him to stop, the student said. Catlett did not know the plain-clothed investigator was an officer.
The investigator pushed Catlett and grabbed him by the garbage bag, ripping his mask off and leaving a cut on his face, the student said. He called Catlett a punk and repeatedly cursed at him while telling him to leave.
Minutes later, after they initially parted ways, the investigator made Catlett sit on the ground and cross his hands behind his back. The investigator then placed one hand on Catlett’s head and kept one hand on his gun while cursing at the Cal Poly student, Catlett said.
The officers who arrived were also angry at him, but they were calmer, more rational and trying to get both sides of the story, Catlett said.
Officers said he committed a misdemeanor but were going to call it even and not seek charges. The officers said Catlett could have been arrested because the ribbons were city property, the student said.
Catlett would have stopped if told to do so by police, he said. Catlett said he was attacked, and that is what the police stand for. They try to protect and serve themselves, Catlett said.