A Florida man who allegedly spray-painted anti-racism messages on about 100 stop signs is facing felony charges.
Zachary Kato, 32, allegedly painted “I can’t breathe” and “racism” under the word “STOP” on stop signs around Port Orange, officials told WKMG.
Officials discovered spray paint, stencils, and receipts in his home when it was searched last week, they told the news outlet.
“You can lock me up and throw away the key,” he told the officers, according to a police report. “I want to see a judge and jury tell me that speaking out against [expletive] racism is wrong.”
Kato also told them to wear different gloves when they searched his daughter’s room because apparently they used the same gloves to search his garbage. They obliged, although it’s not clear if they found anything relevant to the case.
Kato’s cellphone was also searched, and officials discovered images of stencils and the signs. The report said that Instagram photos suggested he used a type of epoxy paint that would be difficult to remove.
Kato was taken to the Volusia County Branch Jail and released on $2,500 bail, authorities said.
“This is an ongoing investigation spanning multiple jurisdictions countywide,” Port Orange Police spokesman Officer B. Andre Fleming said in a news release, as reported by the News-Journal. “Anyone with more information regarding this case should contact Detective William Rhodes at 386-506-5813.”
Local officials in the city made a plea to stop vandalizing the signs as some included profanity, noting that it would cost in excess of $10,000 to clean up the paint.
“Each one of these DOT-approved reflective stop signs—including the ones that say ‘stop racism’—cost about $150 to remanufacture and to send somebody out to remove and replace the old one,” said city manager Jake Johansson in a Facebook live post. He said that stop signs contain a special reflective coating that cannot be cleaned.
“Please stop,” said Johansson. “If you need avenues for letting us know how you feel, let us know. We’ll provide you a few opportunities that are a legal—and be a little more impactful than what you’re doing.”
Kato faces felony mischief charges.