Dust-up over man removing ribbons in San Luis Obispo and officer

June 4, 2021

Alex Catlett in a Mustang News report


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.

Detective Luca Benedetti

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.

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Couple of questions- Why does it need to be a police officer to get someone to stop doing whatever that was socially incorrect? Why can’t certain individuals heed the advice of a private citizen? I rather not have the police (campus police included) respond to frivolous calls, such as these.

I consider having anything thrown at my person as assault. Especially, since in context, it was unfriendly and not anticipated. This guy was practically screaming for attention, probably to cause a scene. I mean, why on earth would someone take down something adorning property that doesn’t belong to him?

I, suppose, common sense or common courtesy (or both) is a oxymoron in Mr. Catlett’s case.

Since when does one (punk) guy get to decide what an entire city can or can’t do? The only one acting out in “Blatant Racism” is Catlett himself. Denying them freedom of speech of Blue Lives Matter, because they are Blue? Shameful control freak! HE doesn’t get to choose for anyone but himself. WE didn’t need nor want your opinion Alex. Grow up! You want to get your oppinion heard? write to the paper! AT Least I will have have MY choice to read your retoric or not. Keep your hands off of other peoples property! You do NOT have a right to choose for me, nor anyone else. If you don’t like the BLue ribbons too bad! There is a lot in this world I do not “Like”, but I would never think to deny thier right to voice their oppinions. I would never even consider denying thier rights to be seen. You have ZERO right to deny mine!

“He didn’t know the significance”? Right there brain surgeon. Another brainwashed, rainbow flag waving loser from Poly.

It’s a classic case of snowflake syndrome.

Go cry to mommy, we don’t want to hear it.

Yeah that cop should suck it up and not be such a sniveling crybaby

So some guy decides to remove blue ribbons. An asshole plain clothed investigator confronts the man, fails to identify himself as law enforcement, engages in some form of verbal confrontation with the man and then physically assaults the man by tearing off his mask. Sounds like a clear case of abuse of authority coupled with an assault and battery by a peace officer upon a civilian. The officer should be terminated for cause. However, in SLO the investigator will be rewarded and DA Dow will protect his own regardless of the civil rights violations. They didn’t arrest the man because it likely is not a crime at all. The removal of materials on public property that is not of an official capacity is not a crime. It’s like the removal of graffiti. Will Dow’s office assault people for removing graffiti next.

How to make a bad situation even worse on both counts.

A DA investigator does not wear a uniform. And if he does not identify himself as law enforcement, how is that “abuse of authority”? Your first line should read, “So some asshole decides to remove blue ribbons. A hero citizen stops him.” If they were LGBT ribbons being removed you KNOW your attitude would be different.

Wow…so much for cooler heads prevailing…I guess hate-mongering trolls gonna hate…Thank God no one was seriously injured during this relatively petty act…Hopefully, we can all move forward and become better people (on both sides) after this incident! We’re capable of being better than this…

Whadaya expect? This is what is being taught at a formerly Polytechnic university. Disband it, cancel the salaries, move everything online, and use the physical facilities to house and feed the homeless.