A man who wore what appeared to be a Ku Klux Klan hood to a grocery store earlier this month will not face charges, the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department said in a news release on Monday.
The man was photographed by shoppers at Vons in Santee, California, on May 2, while wearing the white hood, face fully covered except for two holes around the eyes. The photograph was shared by San Diego’s Anti-Defamation League regional director Tammy Gillies.
The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department had been looking into the incident to decide if it would pursue criminal charges.
The sheriff’s department said Monday that during an interrogation with investigators, the man “expressed frustration with the coronavirus and having people tell him what he can and cannot do.”
San Diego County has issued guidance encouraging people to wear face masks when they leave their homes.
The man told investigators wearing the hood was not intended to be a racial statement.
“It was a mask and it was stupid,” he said, according to the news release.
After a review from the US Attorney’s Office and the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office, “it was determined there was insufficient evidence to charge the man who wore the Ku Klux Klan hood inside the store,” the sheriff’s department said.
The man was not identified in the news release.
‘Sad reminder of intolerance’
In a statement to CNN, Vons said employees had asked the customer to remove the hood, but the customer ignored the requests until they made it to 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,” Vons said in the statement.
Local leaders and city officials expressed outrage when the incident occurred.
In a statement, Santee Mayor John Minto called the incident a “sad reminder of intolerance.”
“Santee, its leaders, and I will not tolerate such behavior,” Minto said. “Santee and its citizens are great, and this particular individual’s actions are not representative of us as a people and a wonderful city.”