SAN DIEGO — Citing free speech protections, the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department will not seek charges against a man who wore a Ku Klux Klan hood in a supermarket.
The department said in a statement that investigators interviewed witnesses, viewed video evidence, reviewed relevant criminal statutes and consulted with prosecutors, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported.
“The U.S. 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,’” the department said.
The unidentified man wore the hood in a store in Santee on May 2, a day after the county required everyone to wear face coverings in public.
He was asked to remove the hood or leave and eventually took it off, paid and left.
The department said that while being questioned the man expressed frustration over the COVID-19 pandemic and “people” telling him “what he can and can’t do,” but said the hood was not intended to be a racial statement.
The department said he told investigators, “It was a mask and it was stupid.”
The department said the community “is rightfully disgusted at this man’s despicable behavior.”
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: California man who wore KKK hood to a grocery store won't face charges