Staten Island man caught ripping down police ribbons apologizes after receiving threats

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CASTLETON CORNERS, Staten Island - A Staten island man caught on camera ripping down police ribbons has issued a public apology after receiving threats on social media.

"I know that what I did was wrong," Stephen Varvaro told SI Live on the phone Wednesday. "Tearing down the ribbons was the wrong thing to do. It was disrespectful."

A video uploaded to Facebook by Jamie Rybak Tuesday shows Varvaro walking through Castleton Corners ripping down the blue ribbons from poles and trees.

Varvaro yells "black lives matter" as he pulls the ribbons down.

The person recording the video yells back at Varvaro that all lives, including blue lives, matter. Varvaro then responds saying he hopes the video goes all over the internet.

As of 4 p.m., the video had more than 920,000 views and nearly 15,000 shares.

The backlash from the video resulted in Varvaro receiving threats as well as anyone linked to him. SI Live reports the owner of a hair salon where Varvaro used to work was threatened with a protest. The owner wants people to know that Varvaro has not been associated with the business for weeks.

"My employees are frightened to be in the building," the Ted & Co Salon owner told SI Live. The owner said the salon has received numerous phone calls of people cursing and screaming at them.

To rebound from the bad publicity, the salon is offering a 20 percent discount for all members of the police force.

"We didn't do this, we're not responsible for this," the owner said. "We don't condone what he did."

When asked why he ripped down the ribbons, Varvaro says he thought they meant "to hell with Black Lives Matter."

"I assumed, I was hasty, I acted in anger," Varvaro told SI Live. "I didn't see blue when I saw blue ribbons, I saw red and I was angry and lost control."

Varvaro, who has relatives who are police officers, says he is "in no way against Blue Lives Matter."

He says he's received several threats that make him worry about his personal safety.

"I don't feel safe on the island anymore," Varvaro said.