Now, the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department is investigating the incident and can file criminal charges.
In a statement to CNN, Vons said employees had asked customers to remove the hood, but customers ignored the request until they arrived at the checkout area.
“This is a disturbing incident for our partners and customers, and we are reviewing with our team how best to deal with such inappropriate situations in the future,” Vons said in a statement.
It is unclear whether customers are allowed to inspect food ingredients or finally remove the hood.
Santee Vons where the incident took place did not respond to CNN’s repeated calls for comment.
The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department said deputies were not called to the store at the time of the incident. But detectives are “investigating the matter” now and will file criminal charges if necessary, the department said in a statement.
Customers are afraid to approach
Alisa Wentzel’s customer told CNN she saw the shopper, who she believed was a man, as soon as she entered the shop. He was waiting at the cashier, he said, wearing a hood.
At first he could not believe what he was seeing, he told CNN.
Wentzel moves between the aisles to sneak a picture of himself and keep his distance.
“Management should have done something, but I don’t see anyone talking to him,” he said. “He just stood in line.”
By the time he finished shopping at the checkout lane himself about 30 minutes later, the man was in line waiting for a cashier, still wearing his hood, he said.
“I only remember feeling very broken hearted, so desperate and then also really upset because this would happen in the community where I raised my family,” he said. “I’m just very surprised and don’t believe it. I still feel that way.”
Santee’s reputation for racial intolerance
The city condemns this last example of racial intolerance.
“Many thanks to all who stepped forward to reduce this sad reminder of intolerance,” Santee Mayor John Minto said in a statement on behalf of the Santee City Council. “Santee and its citizens are great, and these individual actions do not represent us as beautiful people and cities.”