A man who wore a Ku Klux Klan hood to a Santee grocery store Saturday has been identified by the San Diego Sheriff’s office after shocked customers posted photos on social media of the man casually wearing the white hood that is synonymous with racism.
Law enforcement was not called to the incident on May 2, according to a San Diego Sheriff’s press release, but they were looking into it after being made aware of the situation. On May 5 the sheriff’s office issued another release saying they’d identified the man but did not give his name. SDSO Media Relations Director Lt. Ricardo Lopez told Heavy that since the case is still under investigation, they are not releasing any other information right now.
The incident happened at a Vons supermarket on the 9600 block of Mission Gorge Road in Santee, a suburb of San Diego. Photos on social media show an older man with a grey ponytail wearing a camouflage shirt and a tall, white pointy hood covering his face with holes cut out for the eyes — a KKK hood.
According to the Anti-Defamation League, “the image of a hooded Klansman has become a popular hate symbol itself, displayed on t-shirts and tattoos by white supremacists around the world.”
Vons Staff Reportedly Asked the Man to Take the Hood Off But He Ignored Them Until He Was Done Shopping
According to a statement from Melissa Hill, a representative for Vons and Albertsons stores in Southern California, the man would not take off the hood until he got to the checkout line, CBS8 reported.
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.
One customer, Alisa Wentzel, told CNN she saw the man wearing the hood when she walked into the store. He was in line to check out, she said. However, from her perspective, no employees were trying to do anything about the situation.
Wentzel told CNN she thought “management should be doing something, but I didn’t see anyone talking to him. He was just standing in line.” She said he was still in line by the time she finished her shopping and he was still wearing the KKK hood.
“I just remember feeling so heartbroken, so hopeless, and then also just really upset that this would happen in the community that I raise my family in. I was just in utter shock and disbelief. I still feel that way,” Wentzel said.
Local Leaders and the Public Are Condemning the Man for Wearing a KKK Hood, but It’s Not Clear It Was Illegal
Ammar Campa-Najjar is running for Congress in California. He said while he is all for the First Amendment, this kind of thing crosses the line, tweeting, “I fully defend the 1st Amendment, but that doesn’t allow someone to shout ‘fire’ in [the] theatre or wear a symbol of hate and murder at a local store.”
San Diego County District 2 Supervisor Dianne Jacob told 10News San Diego the “abhorrent” incident was an act of “blatant racism.”
“There’s no place and no need for people to be acting like that and yes people are fearful,” she said.
San Diego Sheriff’s Office said in a press release they “do not condone hate or any acts of intolerance in our communities. We are a county that is welcoming of people from all backgrounds.”
Still, it remains to be seen whether there will be any charges. According to Lopez, the sheriff’s department is looking into whether this incident falls under the definition of a hate crime or “other violations of California law which would be applicable if supported by facts found in the investigation.”
Santee Has Been Dubbed ‘Klantee’ Over The Years Because of White Supremacist Activity in the Town
In 2019 the Southern Poverty Law Group tracked 88 hate groups in California. The white supremacist hate groups they tracked included 13 white nationalist groups; 13 anti-Muslim groups; six racist skinhead groups; five neo-Nazi groups; three Holocaust denier groups; and one Ku Klux Klan group.
According to the San Diego Reader, “for a while, Santee was nicknamed ‘Klantee’ because of the white power and skinhead activity in the area, and ‘Santucky’ for its large number of lifted pick-ups, RVs in driveways, and Confederate flags.”
The nickname even earned a place in the Urban Dictionary, defined as, “Slang for Santee, a part of San Diego’s East County and home to many bros, skinheads and the Klan(hence the name). Where everyone has tattoos, drives lifted trucks, wears dickies and famous clothing.”
An African American Man posted on Trip Advisor in 2007, “People of color beware of Santee.”
Another woman tweeted that she’s not surprised this happened in Santee, saying, “This doesn’t shock me at all!! #Klantee .. I mean Santee is teeming with KKK and neo-Nazis. @vons should have asked him to leave the store!”
Some maintain that Santee is a good town that doesn’t deserve the disparaging nickname and that its racist history is part of the city’s past, but clearly, at least one man did not get the memo.