Florida Man Arrested After Spray Painting Anti-Racism Messages on 100 Stop Signs

Zachary Kato, a Florida man, has been arrested for spray painting anti-racism messages including “I can’t breathe” on 100 stop signs.

According to Volusia County Corrections – Public Access, 
Kato has prior arrests for “domestic battery by strangulation” 12/14/2012 and also “DUI / leaving scene of crash involving injury, and fugitive for justice” 10/23/2013.

USA Today reports the word “racism” or the phrase “I can’t breathe” were found spray-painted beneath the word “Stop” on stop signs around Port Orange causing an estimated $12,500 in damage last month, according to police records. ‘I can’t breathe’ has been uttered by dozens of people who died after being restrained by police, and became a rallying cry against police brutality after the high-profile deaths of Eric Garner in 2014 and George Floyd in May.

Police obtained surveillance video from the areas where the vandalism occurred which allowed them to identify vehicles connected to the incidents and a suspect: 32-year-old Zachary Kato.

Officers began conducting surveillance on Kato and executed a search warrant at his home on Friday. A search warrant was executed at his home on Friday where police found appliance epoxy spray paint, stencils and a receipt for the purchase of spray paint and stencils.

Police said the lettering on the signs matched the size and style of the stencils found in Kato’s home.

You can lock me up and throw away the key,” Kato said while police searched his home, according to the affidavit. “I want to see a judge and jury tell me that speaking out against (expletive) racism is wrong.”

Police also seized Kato’s cellphone and found pictures of stencils stapled together, the vandalized signs and screenshots of online posts about the graffiti. Kato said in an Instagram message that the graffiti was written with appliance epoxy paint that would be too difficult to scrub off and would force the city to paint over the signs.

After Kato was arrested, he said he didn’t realize he could be facing a felony and “100 was too much but if I could do it all over, I would do it again,” according to police.

Zachary Kato, Volusia County Division of Corrections