A white man pictured wearing a Ku Klux Klan hood at a supermarket near San Diego will not face charges. An investigation into the May 2 incident at the Vons in Santee didn't uncover enough evidence for police to pursue charges, the San Diego County Sheriff's Department said Monday, per the San Diego Union-Tribune. The man was photographed pushing his shopping cart while wearing the white hood. He was repeatedly asked to remove it and finally did so in the checkout lane. He then purchased his items and left. Detectives later questioned the man, who denied making a racial statement. He instead expressed frustration at "having people tell him what he can and cannot do," authorities said, per NBC News. San Diego County announced face coverings would be mandatory in certain public places starting May 1.
"It was a mask and it was stupid," the man said, according to the department, which reviewed "all relevant criminal statutes." It noted that "the US Supreme Court has said that '[speech] that demeans on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, age, disability, or any other similar ground is hateful; but the proudest boast of our free speech jurisprudence is that we protect the freedom to express the thought that we hate.'" Still, the department said the community was "rightfully disgusted at this man's despicable behavior" and warned others "contemplating wearing or displaying items so closely associated with hate and human suffering that our society does not hold in high regard those who do so." Officers are still investigating a Thursday incident in which a man wore a face covering marked with a swastika to a Food 4 Less in Santee. (Read more Ku Klux Klan stories.)