A man wearing a KKK hood while shopping inside a California supermarket has been labelled “blatant racism” and “abhorrent”.
The man, who appeared to be a middle-aged white male, was asked to remove the hood multiple times by staff inside the San Diego grocery store before he eventually complied.
The matter was being investigated as a possible hate crime, police said.
Detectives were “looking into the matter and will pursue any appropriate criminal charges”, Lt. Ricardo Lopez of the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department said on Monday.
“The Sheriff’s Department does not condone hate or any acts of intolerance in our communities,” he said.
“We are a county that is welcoming of people from all backgrounds.”
Photos of the man wearing the KKK hood were shared on social media, prompting outrage from locals and anti-racism campaigners.
“The images I’ve seen are abhorrent,” county supervisor Dianne Jacob, who represents the local community, said in a statement.
“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.”
While others questioned why the man wasn’t forced to leave the store immediately.
Equal rights advocates called for a full investigation and linked the incident to “racial discrimination by law enforcement in enforcing the social distancing mandate”.
“My own elderly father was accosted for walking alone in a park, while crowds of white protestors were left alone. In Santee, a resident wore a KKK hood for a facial covering to a local store and was allowed to shop,” Francine Maxwell, President of San Diego’s branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) said.
The man was asked to take off the hood or leave the store by staff before a supervisor stepped in, Melissa Hill, the chain’s spokesperson, said.
“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,” Melissa Hill said.
“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.”