A Black Lives Matter sign in Thousand Oaks was vandalized on at least three separate occasions, including by a sheriff’s office employee and a district attorney’s office employee, officials said Saturday.
The sign, which consists of a tarp with the letters “BLM” painted on it, has been displayed along a fence on Westlake Boulevard for the last three weeks. It has been damaged and removed several times, according to the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office, prompting the owner of the sign to place a surveillance camera nearby.
Detectives recognized 60-year-old Darrin Stone — an employee of the Sheriff’s Office since 2005 — in images the owner posted of the vandalism online. Stone was captured on camera slashing the sign with a knife on June 13, and he is also accused of slashing the sign a second time on June 19, officials said.
Detectives conducted an investigation and issued Stone a misdemeanor citation for vandalism. He was also placed on paid administrative leave, pending both a criminal and administrative investigation, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
Stone is a service technician at the Pre-Trial Detention Facility in Ventura, official said. He was off-duty at the time of both incidents.
“I’m deeply disappointed that one of our employees involved himself in this type of illegal activity, especially when this is an infringement on someone’s First Amendment right to freedom of speech,” Sheriff Bill Ayub said in a written statement. “We will not tolerate unlawful or unethical behavior by anyone employed by our agency. We hold our employees to the highest standards, and there will be consequences for this.”
In another incident, on May 31, Craig Anderson, 59, allegedly cut down the sign and was going to remove it from the area when he noticed the camera and left, officials said. Anderson, an investigative assistant at the Ventura County District Attorney’s Office, also received a citation for vandalism.
The Ventura County District Attorney’s office issued a statement Saturday saying that Anderson worked there for about four months and that he had resigned. It was not clear when he resigned or whether it was because of the incident.
“In accordance with District Attorney policy, the misdemeanor vandalism citation will be referred to the Attorney General’s Office for all purposes due to Mr. Anderson’s employment status,” the statement reads.
A third incident took place on June 11, when 58-year-old Jeffrey Moore stopped in front of the sign in a work truck, got out of the vehicle and spray painted graffiti on the sign, the Sheriff’s Office said. After detectives tracked him down using the company name and phone number listed on the truck, Moore was issued a citation for vandalism.
The incidents come amid nationwide protests against police violence and racial injustice sparked by the killing of George Floyd while in police custody in Minneapolis.