As the white woman screamed in the drugstore entrance about wanting to lynch her fellow shoppers, it didn’t take long for the cellphone cameras to come out.
Her profanity-laden tirade, which has been viewed nearly 2 million times on Facebook as of early Friday, has sparked a police investigation and gained her the Internet moniker #KuKluxKaren — all after she was captured screaming the n-word no less than 14 times.
It’s the latest in a string of viral incidents featuring white people who have spewed that racial slur at African Americans as they go about their lives in nearly every public setting imaginable: eating dinner at a restaurant in North Carolina; shopping for groceries at a supermarket in Connecticut; riding a school bus in Minnesota; and pulling into a parking lot in Massachusetts, to name a few recent examples.
The Los Angeles Police Department confirmed to The Washington Post that it is investigating the episode, which reportedly occurred Tuesday at a CVS on the city’s Colorado Boulevard, as a “hate incident.” Police have not identified the woman in the video, although KTLA spoke to a neighbor who named her as a woman with a history of restraining orders.
It’s unclear what started the outburst on a sunny afternoon in Eagle Rock, a residential enclave in northeast Los Angeles. Everyone seemed to be minding their own business inside the store, a witness, Renée Saldaña, told BuzzFeed News. From somewhere amid the aisles, it sounded like a mother might have been scolding her child.
Then came the piercing shout of the n-word.
“I was like, what the hell is happening?” Saldaña told BuzzFeed. “I could only hear one voice traveling through the CVS yelling really hateful, violent things.”
A crowd of about a dozen people gathered around the woman at the front of the drugstore, where “it felt like there was violence in the air,” she said. Saldaña started filming, and so did Adrene Ashford, a black costume designer who had also been shopping at the CVS, according to her Instagram post. They wanted to be sure they could document the incident in case it further escalated: Was the woman going to leave? Did she have a gun? What exactly was causing her to explode?
“Yeah, she’s on drugs or something,” someone can be heard saying in the video.
In the video, after bystanders followed her outside the store to her SUV, she proudly showed off her license plate before screeching west down Colorado Avenue, driving down the wrong side of the street.
Inside the CVS, the crowd was left stunned, Saldaña said. “This woman, who looks like anyone you could see at a PTA meeting or next to you in yoga class, is out here terrorizing people in CVS,” she said.
She called the LAPD to report the incident. One neighbor, identified as “Tony,” told KTLA that he had filed restraining orders against the woman and her husband in the past for threatening to assault him and yelling racial slurs.
“Go back to your country. This is not a place for you,” the man claimed that she had yelled.
Tony provided the TV station with security footage he said showed the woman previously threatening to slit someone’s throat and said she’d also vandalized his father’s truck.