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Man wears KKK hood while grocery shopping; mayor calls it a ‘sad reminder of intolerance’

Man wearing a KKK hood in grocery store
A man was spotted wearing a KKK hood in a Vons grocery store in Santee on Saturday.
(Tiam Tellez)

A man was spotted wearing a Ku Klux Klan hood in a Vons in the San Diego County city of Santee on Saturday, igniting outrage from the mayor, the head of the Anti-Defamation League in San Diego and others.

A corporate spokeswoman said grocery clerks repeatedly asked the shopper to remove the hood or leave the store, located on Mission Gorge Road.

A supervisor found the man once he was in a checkout line and asked him again to take off the hood or leave, said Melissa Hill, a spokeswoman for Vons, Albertsons and Pavilions stores in Southern California.

The man removed the hood, purchased his items and left.

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Photos shared on social media showed the man pushing the cart in the store’s produce area and holding a plastic produce bag while wearing the hood. At least one photo shows the man, who appears to be white and middle-aged, standing behind a cart without a hood.

Santee Mayor John Minto and other leaders condemned the incident.

“San Diego is #NoPlaceForHate,” Tammy Gillies, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League in the San Diego area, said on Twitter.

Minto and residents who commented on social media said the shopper’s actions did not represent the values of the city of almost 60,000 residents. The city has worked over the years to overcome a history of racially motivated attacks and skinhead activity that led to the nicknames “Klantee” and “Santucky.”

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“So troublesome in so many ways this is still happening in Santee at Vons,” resident Tiam Tellez wrote on Facebook, where he shared photos he took of the shopper. “Disgusting!”

While some questioned why the man was not forced to leave the store, Tellez, Minto and others thanked the store’s management team for stepping in.

“Many thanks to all who stepped forward to curtail this sad reminder of intolerance,” the mayor said. “Santee, its leaders and I will not tolerate such behavior.”

County Supervisor Dianne Jacobs, who represents Santee and other East County communities, also denounced the man’s actions.

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“The images I’ve seen are abhorrent,” she 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.”

Hill said the incident was alarming and shocking.

“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,” 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.”

The incident occurred a day after a San Diego County mandate requiring residents to wear face coverings in public, including in grocery stores, took effect. The mandate is aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19.

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Hernandez writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune. SDUT staff writer Karen Pearlman contributed to this report.


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