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For nearly as long as automobiles have been in existence, troubled individuals have been keying cars. Many drivers have experienced the frustration of returning to their vehicle to find that a vandal keyed it. However, with the advancement of technology in Teslas and other cars, it might not be as easy for car keyers to get away with their vandalism. Recently, cameras in a Tesla Model 3 helped police catch a California car keyer.

A masked man keyed a Tesla Model 3 in a Target parking lot

California man keying a Tesla Model 3, who was arrested by police with the help of cameras in the car
Vandal keying a Tesla Model 3 | Wham Baam Teslacam via YouTube

As shown in a video on the Wham Baam Teslacam YouTube channel, Leo, an owner of a Tesla Model 3, parked his electric car outside of a Target in Alameda, California. After returning from shopping, Leo discovered that a vandal keyed his Model 3 on all four panels on the right side of the vehicle. 

Leo then reviewed the video footage from the Tesla Sentry Mode feature. The footage showed a masked man walking around the Model 3, who then pulled out his keys and dragged them along the right side of the vehicle. The masked man dug deep as the key marks were clearly visible. 

Things got weird as the vandal felt the key scratches, walked barefoot, and keyed a nearby Jeep Wrangler

California man keying a Jeep Wrangler, who was arrested by police with help of Tesla Model 3 cameras
Man keying a Jeep Wrangler | Wham Baam Teslacam via YouTube

After this, things got a little weird. The masked man walked away and then returned a few minutes later. He came back to Leo’s Tesla Model 3 and felt the car key scratches. The vandal did this several times, with multiple trips around the Tesla. He could have either done this to rub the paint off — or to perhaps check his “handiwork.”

The car keyer walked away and returned once again, but in slightly different clothes, with a different hoodie. However, his t-shirt is still visible under the hoodie, and he’s wearing the same pair of pants. Also, this time, he didn’t wear a mask. 

After putting some items in his Cadillac SUV, the man proceeded to walk around the Model 3 barefoot. He then keyed a Jeep Wrangler parked next to the Tesla. 

Police, who were impressed by the Tesla videos, arrested the California car keyer

Leo had clear video evidence of the vandal keying cars, as well as his Cadillac SUV. With this in mind, Leo was confident that he could identify the perpetrator and the car he was driving. 

He suspected that the vandal keyed cars for fun and probably was still in the parking lot. After scouting the parking lot for about 10 minutes, Leo saw the same SUV approaching from the right. Leo then quickly parked his car, got out in front of the vandal’s SUV, “honked his horn, and got out to talk to him.”

To avoid a direct escalation with the car keyer, Leo called security. At first, security was confused about the situation. However, after seeing the videos from the cameras in Tesla Sentry Mode, they understood.

Security confronted the vandal about keying the cars. However, despite the clear video evidence, he denied it and acted aggressively toward security. Leo then called 911.

The police soon arrived at the scene and were “impressed by the videos.” Also, “they promptly found all of the clothes” the man had worn in his SUV. He appeared to be intoxicated and refused to reach an agreement. Leo then decided to press charges against the car keyer, and the police arrested him.

Why do people key cars?

It’s unclear why the California man keyed the Tesla Model 3 and the Jeep Wrangler. However, Leo’s wife thinks that the vandal owns a body shop in the area and keyed “new and expensive cars” in the area to “get more business.” 

Also, as detailed by WheelScribe, additional reasons for why people key cars include jealousy, drunkenness, conflicts/disputes, and the thrill of destroying property. Additionally, while this wasn’t the case with the California vandal, cars are often accidentally keyed, especially when parked in a crowded area. 


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