A sheriff's office employee and an investigative assistant with the district attorney's office in Ventura County, California, were among three men who have been arrested after they were caught on video damaging a roadside Black Lives Matter sign on private property, authorities said.
The Ventura County Sheriff's Office identified the men as Darrin Stone, Craig Anderson and Jeffrey Moore, all of Thousands Oaks.
For the last three weeks, the sign — a tarp with the letters BLM painted on it — has been secured to a fence on Westlake Boulevard and has been damaged or removed several times, the sheriff's office said.
The owner of the sign placed a surveillance camera near it to capture images of anyone damaging or removing it.
The sheriff's office said it recognized one of its employees, Stone, 60, in footage the owner posted online of a man ripping through the sign with a knife on June 13 and June 19 and initiated a criminal investigation. Stone was off duty at the time of both incidents.
Sheriff Bill Ayub said in a statement, "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."
The sheriff said that his department "will not tolerate unlawful or unethical behavior."
"We hold our employees to the highest standards, and there will be consequences for this," he said.
Stone has been an employee of the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office since 2005, and was assigned most recently as a service technician at the Pre-Trial Detention Facility in Ventura. He was arrested Friday and was issued a misdemeanor citation for vandalism, the sheriff's office said. He has cooperated with investigators. Stone has been placed on paid administrative leave, pending the outcome of criminal and administrative investigations.
Anderson, 59, an investigative assistant with the Ventura County District Attorney’s Office, was also arrested and cited for vandalism after he was caught in video footage cutting and attempting to remove the sign before he noticed the camera and left it at the scene on May 31, the sheriff's office said.
The district attorney’s office said in a statement Saturday that Anderson had resigned after working in the office for approximately four months. Because of Anderson's status as a former employee, his misdemeanor citation would be referred to the state Attorney General's Office, the statement said.
A third man, Moore, 58, was also arrested and issued a misdemeanor citation for vandalism. He is accused of spray painting graffiti on the sign on June 11. Moore was tracked down through the company name and phone number prominently displayed on his work truck, the sheriff's office said.
Stone, Anderson and Moore did not immediately return requests for comment Monday.