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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I am not sure what was illegal about his behavior. Crass? Sure. Illegal? No.

These items, streamers-signs-effigy, are part of free speech when YOU are there making your feelings known. Afterwards, if left behind on public property, they become garbage. Doesn’t matter if it were a BLM flag, Blue Ribbon, or any other item.

Tying blue ribbons, or anything, to the highway and leaving them is polluting—not free speech. If so, I have a few placards to hang that Mr Dow can help to keep up with the threat of law.

What kind of horrible human would defend someone like this. Jeezus w*TF is wrong with you?? He was not taking them down afterwards, he was confronted while the widow of the slain officer was on the way to her husbands funeral which was the result of protecting YOU and all of us.

Working really hard to get his 15 mins.

What next…. While I completely understand the man’s ire and reaction driving with the widow, I dont think this needs any further legal action-in either direction. Considering the event that led to the ribbons, young man is lucky he didn’t take one in the chops. Its obvious he wasnt exactly honest in saying he didn’t understand the “significant impact” of cutting the ribbons because he said it was like a “billion blue ribbons” and the blue flag is “blatant racism” and he was “bothered” by it. A Cal Poly senior, or anyone in San Luis, knows only too well about the tragic incident. If he was truly clueless about the significance he wouldve reacted differently when first confronted. He knew damn well what he was doing-although prob didn’t know the legality of it. I wouldn’t have thought it was illegal. He was just being a…..punks pretty strong, maybe just a jerk lacking in some awareness that’s had a little too much koolaid. Too bad it was an investigator…better if it was an old woman clobbering him with her purse.

What do you want to bet this punk will now sue for being “attacked”. Apparently he does not see the display of blue ribbons as “free speech”. But it would be OK for his group to block drivers on a freeway or graffiti store windows. I don’t blame the detective for being upset, this was all in front of Officer Benedetti’s grieving widow! Justducky said it for me, entitled spoiled college student. One day he’ll have to pay his own bills and rent, maybe then he won’t have time to be tearing down other’s memorials.

Don’t you know Alex Catlett is all for free speech as long as it agrees with his positions but when it doesn’t he believes it’s racists.

“The man said he did not understand the significant impact removing the ribbons would have.”

Uh, yeah, sure.

When I read an article like this one I realize that either these anti-police advocates are stupid, and have no real life experience, or I have been wrong over nearly all that matters for over 70 years.

Typical spoiled college child…feels entitled to remove anything that he finds distasteful or deems to be racist. Shocked to find out that what he was doing was illegal…NOT! Glad to read that the investigator “grabbed him by the garbage bag.” I hope it hurt!

Bleeding heart whine bag. He knew the significance of destroying those ribbons and hoped for his moment of fame and he got it except, most people find him disgusting at this point.

Another little wacko from Cal Poly — and he thinks he can just go around and take down blue lives matter ribbons?? And this so called “educated” Cal Poly Students thinks…that blue ribbons and the thin blue line flag is racist??? WHAT KIND OF SETTING IS CAL POLY?? Pretty scary that CP is cultivating such ill-informed idiots! Damn, sure hope they LEAVE and never come back upon graduation — having to put up with them for the 5+ years they are there is more than enough and has done so much damage to SLO.

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