The man known as the "paint bomber," Coyer James King, is accused of vandalizing city streets by setting paint bombs in the roadway.
He would allegedly fill miscellaneous containers such as plastic motor oil bottles with paint and toss them from his car as he was driving, according to police.
Unsuspecting motorists would then drive over the containers, causing them to burst and the paint to splatter, according to Santa Clara police spokesman Lt. Mike Sellers.
The paint bombing appears to have begun in August 2006, but in the last six weeks or so there was an increase in activity so the department made it a priority to catch the person responsible, Sellers said.
At about 8 a.m. on July 17 police spotted King's 1984 red Ford Tempo on Lafayette Street near Santa Clara University, and witnessed King setting one of the paint bombs in the street, Sellers said.
After a vehicle drove over the paint bomb, causing it to explode, King was arrested.
It is unclear why King was targeting Santa Clara, but Sellers said he thought there had been some of the same markings found in San Jose, though San Jose police couldn't immediately confirm that.
The city where King lives, Cupertino, has had no particular vandalism associated with the paint-bombing activity, according to Lt. Dalia Rodriguez, spokesperson for Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office.
King is charged with 13 felony counts of vandalism and two counts of attempted vandalism. He is being held on $100,000 bail at the Santa Clara Main Jail and is scheduled to enter a plea today at 2 p.m.
Sellers said King's motive and mental stability are unclear at this time, but that this type of "cowardly vandalism," a phrase Sellers attributed to Santa Clara Police Chief Stephen Lodge, is usually behavior associated with juveniles.
Police are investigating the possibility that there may be more incidents they aren't aware of.
"People who maybe found paint on their car or tire and didn't think anything about it at the time, we would like to hear from them," he said.
People who think they may be victim of the vandalism are asked to call the Santa Clara police hotline at (408) 615-4826.