Lakeland police look for person who spray-painted 16 buildings

Image 1 of 5

Lakeland police are looking for the person who spray-painted graffiti throughout a busy street. They believe at least 16 businesses were hit within a two-hour period.

Saturday night, between 9 and 11, police say a man walked north for two miles on South Florida Avenue, spray painting the word "SOLOE" and some profanities along the way.

Debra Haskell, owner of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Olive Branch said her sign was sprayed on both sides.

"Of course my heart sank," Haskell said. "It's very disheartening as an independent business owner. We put our heart and our soul into our businesses."

"I'm working probably 12 hours a day, 6 days a week to make my business go," Haskell said, "and, somebody comes in without regard or thought to the businesses or what we do for the community."

It appears the tagger was working solo. Otherwise, his lookout might've advised him not to spray the very well-surveilled downtown bus terminal. Police hope someone recognizes him from the video.

Fortunately, Haskell was able to get the paint cleaned off. But for other small businesses, it can be a pricey fix.

"The businesses around here generally, we have a $5,000-10,000 deductible on our insurance," Haskell said. "It would have been a couple thousand dollars if I had to replace those signs."

Sean Lee, who rides the bus through Lakeland daily, enjoys the mix of historic charm and modern vibe within the city. He's disappointed that someone would try to ruin it. 

"I feel very upset about it," Lee said. "It's not a good thing to do, especially, with the beautification of Lakeland you know? I hope they catch the person who did this to make him pay for what he's done."

Those who live in, or just love visiting Lakeland can't understand how anyone could do something so low.

"I hope whatever is going in that person's life, they do find help and they do find peace in their life," Haskell said. "It's just unfortunate that they have such angst the local businesses."

Police say the suspect appears to be a white male wearing a camouflage jacket with the words Levi’s printed on the sleeve and red tennis shoe. Please take a look at the photographs and if you know the identity of the suspect, call Detective David Sharrett at 863-834-8967.

Anyone with information who wants to remain anonymous and be eligible for a cash reward is asked to call Heartland Crime Stoppers at 1-800-226-TIPS or log onto to submit your tip via the web. For a secure and password protected mobile app for your smart device, go to the app store and download the free “P3tips” mobile app.