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CALIFORNIA : Man, 73, is arrested in vandalism : Sheriff's deputies say they saw the suspect posting 'Who Is John Scott?' stickers in an L.A. subway station.

November 14, 2009|Andrew Blankstein

For months, a mysterious vandal has been slapping hundreds of "Who Is John Scott?" stickers on buses around Los Angeles.

Authorities expected the vandalism to be the work of teenage "slap taggers," who hit buses, street signs and light poles with stickers advertising shoes, skateboards, music bands and sometime their own hand-drawn monikers.

But the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department's anti-graffiti detail got a surprise when it finally tracked down the man allegedly behind "Who Is John Scott?"

The suspect is old-school -- 73 years old to be exact.

On Friday, detectives arrested John Scott on suspicion of felony vandalism, making him the oldest alleged street vandal they have ever captured. Scott, suspected of causing several thousand dollars in damage, was being held in custody on $20,000 bail.

"Up until this year, the oldest guy we had arrested was 36," said Sheriff's Lt. Erik Ruble. "We knew our guy was older, but not [73]."

The arrest caps an investigation that began when orange-and-black "Who Is John Scott?" stickers began popping up on buses in Baldwin Hills and on the Westside seven months ago (though some bus passengers insist that they have been around for more than a year). In recent months, the stickers began showing up on light standards and street sign poles.

Then, on Friday, a special graffiti "saturation patrol" was monitoring the 7th Street and Metro Center subway station downtown when they noticed an older-looking man. Ruble said deputies saw him placing stickers on the transit hub's main stairwell. Authorities said Scott had stickers in his pockets as well in a black briefcase he carried with him.

Detectives spent the rest of the day interviewing Scott, who will be 74 next month. The stickers urge readers to go to a crudely designed website that sells "Who Is John Scott?" T-shirts and hats. It shows a man with his face covered holding a briefcase with one of the stickers on it.

The site also includes some intriguing clues about the man. One is a clipping from a 1976 edition of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin that includes a small item about the arrest of a John Scott for illegally selling T-shirts to tourists on a city street. It noted that Scott carried a briefcase with a "Who Is John Scott?" sticker on it.

One bus rider told The Times that he saw Scott in action last winter while taking the No. 780 bus home to Hollywood. The witness said he noticed an older man with gray hair reaching into his briefcase and pulling out orange stickers. The man quickly posted one of the stickers as some other riders looked on, according to the witness, who asked that his name not be used.

The rider said he videotaped the incident. And when the older man noticed it, he and a woman he was with abruptly got off the bus.

Ruble said detectives are still trying to figure out Scott's background. But he said they believe Scott allegedly was driven to vandalize by the same motivation as his younger cohorts: "fame and notoriety."

"It just goes to show, the graffiti culture in Los Angeles is not age-specific and is very diverse," Ruble said.

Scott was booked on suspicion of felony vandalism. It is unclear when sheriff's deputies will present their case to prosecutors. Whatever the motive, Ruble said detectives think the "John Scott" riddle has been solved. "The mystery exists no more," he said.

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andrew.blankstein @latimes.com

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