Images of a man wearing a Ku Klux Klan hood as a face covering inside a Santee grocery store have circulated on social media, prompting condemnation from local leaders including the regional director of the Anti-Defamation League.
Shoppers took multiple photos of the man with and without his hood while he was inside the Vons located at 9643 Mission Gorge Rd. on Saturday.
A company spokesperson said grocery store workers repeatedly asked the man to remove the hood, but all requests were ignored until he was in the checkout area.
"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," said Melissa Hill, spokesperson for Vons, Albertsons and Pavilions stores in Southern California. "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."
Local leaders also condemned the man in the circulating images.
Anti-Defamation League San Diego Regional Director Tammy Gillies said, "It’s shocking yet not surprising that even during these challenging times, we see people emboldened to express hate. History teaches us that during times of crisis people are looking for a scapegoat."
"During these times of COVID-19 we have seen the AAP I community be targeted, as well as other minority communities, including an uptick in anti-Semitism. We are here for the community 24/7 and hope the San Diego community will come together and reaffirm that San Diego is no place for hate," Gillies told NBC 7 San Diego.
San Diego County Supervisor Dianne Jacob said, "The images I’ve seen are abhorrent. This blatant racism has no place in Santee or any part of San Diego County. It is not who we are. It is not what we stand for and can’t be tolerated."
Santee Mayor John Minto said in part, "The citizens and Vons employees took steps to address the situation. 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."
The San Diego County Sheriff's Department said deputies were not called to the store Saturday, but detectives were looking into the incident to pursue any appropriate criminal charges.
"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," spokesperson Lt. Ricardo Lopez said Monday.
On Tuesday, the department said it had identified the man in the images and "will continue their follow up of the incident."