A Massachusetts man is defending himself after being accused of removing 9/11 police memorial from an overpass on Cape Cod over the weekend.
To hear David Hickman tell it, he is just one man on a mission to keep Cape Cod clean.
"Everyone is in it now, putting whatever they want anywhere and it is getting that cluttered look," Hickman said. "I wanted to clean things up a little."
Hickman, 60, who says he is a volunteer for the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, says he was doing just that on Sunday evening on an overpass over Route 6 in Barnstable.
"I didn't know what it was, I was a little offended, I thought someone had perverted an American flag," the Plymouth resident said.
Hickman says he started taking the banner down when police arrived.
"I had no idea this was a police thing," Hickman said. "I've never stolen anything in my life and I would certainly not steal a police banner."
A Yarmouth Deputy Police Chief placed the banner there to honor those who lost their lives on 9/11 and to serve as a memorial for his son who died in Afghanistan.
"Police were upset, this is their cause and now I know this is their cause and I didn't know that before," Hickman said.
"My first reaction was, you think somebody just doesn't like police," Barnstable Police Sgt. Sean Sweeney said.
According to Sweeney, his department received several reports of flags missing from the memorial. A detective driving near it on Sunday saw a man matching a description from a previous report. Officers were dispatched and Hickman was arrested. Investigators say he led them tot he woods where they found the flags.
Hickman denies putting the flags there.
"I hike the woods, okay, there are flags in the woods 20-30 of them. I did not put them there, I saw them there, and I said I know where flags are that look like this and I took them to those flags," he said.
Sgt. Sweeney says the day this happened didn't help things.
"Now you have 9/11 the same day, everybody is at home watching stories about 9/11 and you have a guy ripping down a memorial, a lot of people took it personally," he said.
Late Monday afternoon, M-DOT released the following statement:
"The Massachusetts Department of Transportation understands the sensitivity surrounding the display of flags and other signs on state highway bridges and overpasses and appreciates the desire to recognize individuals who are returning home to Massachusetts after serving our country. MassDOT continues to maintain a standard practice for displaying flags and signs in order to ensure that patriotism is preserved and safety criteria is adhered to. MassDOT hopes the two well-meaning sides on this particular issue can resolve their disagreements amicably and without MassDOT intervention. Sometimes, common sense is the best approach."
Hickman was in District Court on Monday morning. He stopped by the Yarmouth Police Dept. headquarters this evening to try and apologize to the deputy chief in person. The deputy chief was not available.