UPDATED 5/12/20, 8:54 p.m. ET: The man who wore a KKK-style hood as a coronavirus mask will not face criminal charges, authorities announced Monday.
"The man expressed frustration with the coronavirus and having people tell him what he can and cannot do," the San Diego County Sheriff's Department told NBC News. "He said that wearing the hood was not intended to be a racial statement. In summary, he said, 'It was a mask and it was stupid.'"
After investigating the incident, the sheriff's office determined there was insufficient evidence to criminally charge the man, as he had the right to free speech. However, the office cautioned the public from saying or displaying hateful messages/symbols or risk social repercussions.
"This incident should serve as a reminder for anyone contemplating wearing or displaying items so closely associated with hate and human suffering that our society does not hold in high regard those who do so," the statement continued. "Santee is a city of families, and the community is rightfully disgusted at this man's despicable behavior. The Sheriff's Department thoroughly investigates incidents such as these and will hold those who violate the law accountable."
See the original story below.
As more states are requiring residents to wear face masks when leaving the house, one California man took it too far. On Saturday, photos emerged online of the man in question wearing a makeshift KKK hood while shopping at a Vons grocery store in Santee.
“Detectives from the Sheriff’s Department are looking into the matter and will pursue any appropriate criminal charges,” a press release from Santee Mayor John Minto said, per the Times of San Diego. “The Sheriff’s Department does not condone hate or any acts of intolerance in our communities. We are a county that is welcoming of people from all backgrounds.”
Minto deemed the man’s attire to be a “symbol of hatred.”
“The citizens and Vons employees took steps to address the situation,” he said. “Many thanks to all who stepped forward to curtail this sad reminder of intolerance. Santee, its leaders, and I will not tolerate such behavior. Santee and its citizens are great, and this particular individual’s actions are not representative of us as a people and a wonderful city.”
Tweets said that grocery store security did nothing more than ask the man to take off the hood, which he allegedly wore to adhere to face mask requirements in San Diego County.
A woman who photographed the incident, who was only identified as Melissa S., told the publication that she was in "disbelief " with that she had seen. “He was behind me in line. Standing quietly. A man in a wheelchair [went] past and saluted him and he laughed. I took the photo because I couldn’t believe what I was witnessing. I’ve grown up in Santee and have never seen such racism right before my eyes," she explained.
Vons also released a statement on Sunday:
At Vons, fostering an environment of courtesy, dignity and respect is one of our highest priorities, and we work hard to hold everyone in our stores to these standards, including customers.
Unfortunately, an alarming and isolated incident occurred at our Vons store in Santee, where a customer chose an inflammatory method of wearing a face covering. Needless to say, it was shocking.
Several members of our team asked the customer to remove it, and all requests were ignored until the customer was in the checkout area. This was a disturbing incident for our associates and customers, and we are reviewing with our team how to best handle such inappropriate situations in the future.