‘I can’t breathe:' Florida man accused of spray painting anti-racism messages on 100 stop signs

Police say they found paint, stencils at suspect's home

Zachary Kato
Zachary Kato (Volusia County Jail)

PORT ORANGE, Fla. – A man accused of spray painting anti-racism messages on 100 stop signs told police they could lock him up “and throw away the key” because he stood behind what he wrote, according to the Port Orange Police Department.

Records show on July 6, several stop signs across the city were found to have been painted so that the word “Racism” or the phrase “I can’t breathe” appeared beneath the word “Stop.”

Surveillance video from the areas where the vandalism occurred led officers to identify 32-year-old Zachary Keto as a suspect, police said.

A search warrant was executed at his home on Friday and while there, officers said they found a receipt for spray paint and stencils, spray paint, stencils and other evidence.

When Kato saw an officer holding a can of spray paint he said, “(Expletive), (expletive) digging through my trash. I did not take the trash out this morning, (expletive). You petty (expletive), bro. (Expletive) man, ah homeboy just (expletive) walked through with that in his hand digging through the (expletive) garbage. I’m (expletive) now,” according to the affidavit.

Records show Kato watched as officers continued searching the home.

“You can lock me up and throw away the key. (Expletive) racism, (expletive) white power. I’ll scream it ‘til the day I die. I want to see a judge and jury tell me that speaking out against (expletive) racism is wrong. (Expletive) that (expletive). I don’t give a (expletive) what happens,” Kato said, according to the report.

He also said more people would now go out and “tag a thousand (expletive) signs,” records show.

Police said Kato was hesitant about letting officers search his daughter’s room because they were wearing the same gloves they wore while digging through the trash.

After they changed gloves, he reportedly told them, “You don’t need to go in my daughter’s room, you obviously found the (expletive)” and “Anyone can have a can of black and white spray paint. That does not prove (expletive), you found a stencil that said ‘in,’ so good evidence there. You ain’t got (expletive), buddy. I know you ain’t got (expletive). I ain’t saying nothing. I’m just incriminating myself.”

Officers said they measured the stencils against the letters spray painted on the signs and found that they were the same size.

After Kato was arrested and started asking about his charges, he said he didn’t realize he could be facing a felony but added, “100 was too much but if I could do it all over, I would do it again,” records show.

Kato’s cellphone was also seized as part of the search. On that device, police said they found pictures of the stencils and of the vandalism and screenshots from online forums where users were talking about the graffiti.

There were also Instagram messages where Kato revealed that the messages were written in an appliance epoxy paint that would be impossible to scrub off, which is why the city had painted over the bottom half of the signs, records show.

The report noted that appliance epoxy spray paint was found in Kato’s trash.

All in all, police said Kato caused $12,500 worth of damage.

He’s facing a felony criminal mischief charge.

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