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DUBUQUE, Iowa - The theft of a stuffed parrot in Dubuque has sparked out-rage online that has caught the attention of Dubuque police.
It stems from a picture that's circulating online showing Matthew Leavenworth's bruised face. Police arrested him for aggravated theft.
According to a police report, Leavenworth tried to steal a stuffed parrot from Salsa's Mexican restaurant Saturday night and started a fight with the owner.
But Leavenworth and his friends have a different version of events. and are taking that story to the masses online.
There are two very different versions of what happened. The police version and the one Leavenworth's girlfriend, Abi Gruber, helped put out on Facebook.
Gruber said, "I hope that it deters a lot more people from going to Salsa's too because if this is how they treat their patrons, I don't think people can find that environment very safe."
She claims Leavenworth simply stepped outside for a smoke with the stuffed parrot and Salsa's employees attacked him.
Salsa's owner claims he confronted Leavenworth about trying to steal the parrot and that Leavenworth tried to punch him.
Ultimately, police say it is one man's word against another. But because Leavenworth admitted walking out of Salsa's with the parrot, he was charged with theft.
Dubuque Police Chief Mark Dalsing said, "Based on the evidence presented that night, it supports the shop owner's story. "
Leavenworth said that the police report is wrong.
That's why his friends posted a picture of him along with their account of what happened. From there, the alternate version has spread on Facebook.
Eric Troy saw Leavenworth's version of the incident on Facebook. That's why he passed out flyers urging a boycott of Salsa's.
Troy said, "it all comes down to the first punch. Was the first punch physical or verbal? Verbal assaults are just as important as physical ones. "
Salsa's owner, Emiliano Ramirez said the Facebook posts are an attempt to drive him out of business.
Leavenworth says he has not personally posted anything about the incident. He says he appreciates the support, but admits some of the comments online have gone too far.
Ultimately, police say they can't make arrests based on public opinion.
Dalsing said, "It's up to them if they want to make their case in the public court. That's up to them, but the final say is going to be in the physical court. "
And unless a stuffed parrot starts talking, police say no more arrests are likely.
Online commenters have noted that Salsa's owner is the brother of a Dubuque police officer.
But Dubuque police say that officer is not associated with this case and that personal relationships have no impact on decisions to make arrests.