Amber Lynn Gilles, the California woman who has been referred to online as a “San Diego Karen” after she claimed a Starbucks barista denied her service for not wearing a mask, is back in the headlines. Gilles is demanding half of the GoFundMe proceeds that were raised for the college student after she attempted to shame him on social media. Gilles has been saying she wanted half of the money since the incident went viral, but now she says she plans to hire a lawyer.
Gilles posted a photo of the barista, identified as Lenin Gutierrez, on June 22. She claimed she felt discriminated against and that she was medically exempted from wearing a mask. This occurred at a Starbucks in San Diego, where masks were already mandated in public to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Gutierrez spoke up a few days later to share his side of the story. He said he simply asked Gilles whether she had a mask and never denied her service. He said Gilles became angry, cursed at him and others inside the store, and left before returning moments later to take his picture. An online fundraiser was launched on Gutierrez’s behalf. Nearly 8,000 strangers nationwide donated more than $100,000. Gutierrez said he planned to use the money to further his education.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Gilles Says the Public Is Rewarding ‘Discriminatory Behavior’ & Argues That She’s the One Who Is Owed an Apology
Gilles is standing by her decision to post about Gutierrez on Facebook. She says it was within her first amendment rights to do so. In an interview with ABC 10 News San Diego, when asked if she wanted to apologize, she responded “absolutely not.”
She insisted that she is the one who deserves an apology. Gilles told the TV station that she feels the public is rewarding “discriminatory behavior” by donating money to Gutierrez. She said she feels she is owed half of the proceeds that were raised for Gutierrez and plans to file a lawsuit against him.
Gilles said she has not yet hired a lawyer because she first needs to raise money for attorney fees. She started her own GoFundMe account titled, “Redress Defamation of Character.” She has raised $430 from 35 donors since July 2. On the page, Gilles claimed she has received death threats since her post went viral and says she has been “slandered and defamed” as well as “silenced on media platforms and censored.”
2. Gilles Claimed a Chiropractor Diagnosed Her With Breathing Conditions That Prevent Her From Wearing a Mask
In Gilles’ original Facebook post on June 22, which has since been either removed or made private, she wrote she had a medical reason for not wearing a mask but did not provide details at the time. She has since claimed to KGTV that she has asthma, gets dizzy when wearing a mask and that a chiropractor gave her a medical exemption.
She showed the TV station a handwritten note from a chiropractor in San Diego. The outlet blurred the doctor’s name but reported that the note had the chiropractor’s letterhead. The note said, “Amber has underlying breath conditions that prevent her from wearing a mask or any type of facial covering whatsoever. Please contact me if have any questions.” Gilles also showed KGTV a document related to a pelvic exam from 2015 that showed she had an ovarian cyst.
Since the post aimed at Gutierrez went viral, Gilles has made her Instagram account private and has changed the privacy settings on much of her Facebook page. Before she made those changes, her accounts included several posts arguing that the state’s mask mandate, as well as stay-at-home orders, were unconstitutional. She posted a photo of herself wearing a Guy Fawkes mask on April 25 and wrote, “Not complying with aggressive tyrannical government over reach, useless masks, mandatory vaccines, the closure of small businesses, parks, schools, social distancing, 5g, the deep and police state.”
3. Gutierrez Said the Money Is ‘Mind Blowing’ & Plans to Use It to Further His College Education
After the incident between Gilles and Gutierrez went viral on social media, marketing professional Matt Cowan was inspired to start a virtual tip jar for the barista. The two young men did not know each other beforehand. Cowan set an initial goal of $1,000 but thought even that sum was a “reach.” He wrote on GoFundMe, “Raising money for Lenin for his honorable effort standing his ground when faced with a Karen in the wild.”
The campaign took off, attracting attention from thousands of donors across the world and reached $105,000. The page is still visible but has now been closed.
Cowan and another friend, Will Collette, delivered the money to Gutierrez and shared a video of the exchange to YouTube. The video shows Gutierrez holding an oversized check for the entire sum. The check reads that Gutierrez was receiving it for “being kind.” They then gave Gutierrez the actual money in stacks of cash.
Gutierrez said after depositing the money in the bank, he planned to use it to further his education. He wants to study kinesiology at California State University Fullerton. As a dancer himself, he wants to work with other performers and have a degree that could enable him to help other dancers recover after being injured. Gutierrez explained in the video that he also planned to donate to various charities.
4. Gutierrez Says He Plans to Keep Working at Starbucks
Gutierrez grew up in Chula Vista, California. When Cowan delivered the money, he and Gutierrez sat down for an on-camera discussion about what it all meant to him. Gutierrez explained that his family did not have much money growing up and that they ate a lot of rice and beans. He added that at Christmas, the tree often had wrapped boxes underneath for decoration but did not actually contain presents.
Gutierrez said he was stunned after learning that thousands of strangers wanted to give him money and was amazed as the number climbed to more than $100,000. “It’s more money than anyone in my family has ever had.” He added, “I feel like I’ve been given this incredible opportunity that I never saw coming and I don’t want to waste it.”
Gutierrez has been working at Starbucks for about three years, the Los Angeles Times reported. He says he plans to keep his part-time job there. “I’m not viewing this as something that means I can take a break from life. I’m going to keep going as if the money never existed.”
5. Masks Are Mandatory Statewide In California
California’s governor has made masks mandatory statewide as coronavirus cases rise. Residents are urged to cover their faces when entering any indoor public areas as well as outside if proper social distancing is not possible. Business owners are among those tasked with helping to enforce the rule by asking customers to wear masks inside of stores and other establishments. Starbucks is also among the major retailers that now require customers to wears masks in all of its stores across the country.
According to state guidelines, the following groups are exempted from wearing a mask:
• Persons younger than two years old. These very young children must not wear a face covering because of the risk of suffocation.
• Persons with a medical condition, mental health condition, or disability that prevents wearing a face covering. This includes persons with a medical condition for whom wearing a face covering could obstruct breathing or who are unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove a face covering without assistance.
• Persons who are hearing impaired, or communicating with a person who is hearing impaired, where the ability to see the mouth is essential for communication.
• Persons for whom wearing a face covering would create a risk to the person related to their work, as determined by local, state, or federal regulators or workplace safety guidelines.
• Persons who are obtaining a service involving the nose or face for which temporary removal of the face covering is necessary to perform the service.
• Persons who are seated at a restaurant or other establishment that offers food or beverage service, while they are eating or drinking, provided that they are able to maintain a distance of at least six feet away from persons who are not members of the same household or residence.
• Persons who are engaged in outdoor work or recreation such as swimming, walking, hiking, bicycling, or running, when alone or with household members, and when they are able to maintain a distance of at least six feet from others.
• Persons who are incarcerated. Prisons and jails, as part of their mitigation plans, will have specific guidance on the wearing of face coverings or masks for both inmates and staff.