A man who caused a ruckus after refusing to wear a mask at an H Mart in California was forced to leave the store as its manager and customers stood together to kick him out.
What happened: The incident occurred at the Korean American supermarket’s location in West Huntington Drive, Arcadia around 6:15 p.m. on Aug. 6. Emilie Tan (@emilieeetan), who was shopping with her boyfriend, managed to film parts of the chaos.
Tan told NextShark that they first found the man arguing with the manager at the back of the store. At the time, the man was “already visibly aggravated,” yelling in the manager’s face and refusing to leave “because he didn't want to wear a mask.”
The man had the manager in a corner while a security personnel contacted the police. At that moment, Tan and her boyfriend chose not to intervene to prevent escalating the scene “into something worse/physical," since the man was "unpredictable" and the manager was "still professional.” However, they stayed in the area to ensure that the manager was not alone. They also attempted to ID the customer.
The incident took a worse turn when the man shoved a cart and flipped it in the direction of the manager “in an attempt to ram him,” Tan said. Three female customers then began to intervene, and this is when Tan took out her phone to record the scene. “I started filming when I noticed an immediate change in the man's expression and body language. He began directing his hostility toward the women,” she said.
In Tan's Instagram Story Highlights, the man can be seen pointing his finger at the manager, saying, “You’re breaking the law.” He also claims that the manager assaulted him, but a customer refuted him at once.
“No he didn’t! You’re the one who doesn’t want to wear a mask right now. We’re all wearing masks. We’re all complying,” the customer said.
Throughout the video, the manager is seen throwing his body to protect the customers from the man. Tan said more shoppers and H Mart employees began filming the scene later, leaving the man surrounded.
The aftermath: The man started walking toward the exit after learning that the police were on their way, Tan said. He stood near the registers until they arrived and escorted him out.
While the incident had multiple witnesses, police informed them that they “couldn’t do anything” and that “it happens,” according to Tan. They left the store without arresting the man, while the manager stayed outside to make sure he did not come back.
Tan described the incident as an “eye-opening” experience. She said the H Mart outlet -- where she is a regular -- has always been proactive about COVID-19 prevention. “I would say they have been the most diligent about enforcing sanitary/safety guidelines, even to this day. So to see someone outright refuse [wearing a mask] is surprising,” she said.
Tan said the manager “left the biggest impact on me personally, as he never even took a step back or faltered from the man's attempts at intimidation.” She also felt empowered to see the women step in to defend him and the store without hesitation, “because I've seen so much media coverage on public attacks towards members of the Asian community since the pandemic began, and not much coverage on if others stopped to help.”
On a more positive note, the eyewitness said she is glad that the man did not make racist or discriminatory statements. “My heart would have been much heavier after this situation, but instead this only makes me realize how burnt out everyone is and how much of a mental toll the pandemic has taken,” Tan told NextShark.
It is understood that the man blew past the store’s front security and its sanitizing station at the entrance, which makes sure everyone is masked up, Tan said.
As of July 27, Los Angeles County -- where Arcadia is located -- has required everyone to wear masks in indoor public spaces regardless of vaccination status.
Featured Image via Emilie Tan (@emilieeetan) for NextShark
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