In a widely circulated video, a woman is seen berating a family and cashier using racially-tinged language at a department store in New Jersey.
Simoni Lovano was at a Sears in New Brunswick, New Jersey, last weekend when he had a feeling he should take out his cellphone and begin recording.
His video, which has since made the rounds on the internet, appears to show an unidentified woman irate about a purchase that was taking too long.
The rhetoric soon escalated.
“Send them back to their own f**king country,” the woman is heard saying, apparently referring to three customers who Lovano believes are Latino and the cashier who Lovano believes is South Asian.
Lovano said he was shocked by what he’d witnessed.
“I was so angry that I was almost shaking,” he told NBC News.
The incident unfolded on June 4 in the early afternoon when Lovano, who works for a biotech company, went to a Sears to shop for a house he recently moved into, he said.
NBC News has not verified what happened before the recording started, but Lovano said he was paying for his items when the cashier noticed one of them did not have a price tag. The store understaffed, the cashier asked Lovano to go back to check if there was a sign listing the price, he said.
When he returned, he had lost his place in line to a family of three, Lovano said.
Each had a coupon for separate transactions, he said, which altogether took 20 minutes to complete.
Meanwhile, a woman toward the back of the line with five customers ahead of her was getting testy, according to Lovano.
“No, you gotta take one order and go back to the line,” the woman is heard yelling in the video.
“Let’s drain the swamp, hurry up,” another man says.
Lovano said he believes the man and woman were together.
The next part of the video, which Lovano said he edited down for length, shows the woman walking in front of the camera, saying, “Send them back to their own f**king country.”
Lovano said Sears employees tried calming her down as she continued to complain. Everyone else who was waiting was patient, he added.
Messages sent to Sears corporate headquarters by NBC News seeking comment were not immediately returned.
Later on, the woman is also heard saying, “You got an Indian waiting on an Indian,” an apparent reference to the cashier and three customers.
“They’re not Indian,” another woman responds.
“I don’t know what the hell they are,” the other woman replies.
The family completed their purchases, and the woman was in the process of a return with a separate cashier when Lovano finished at the store and left, he said.
Lovano said he believes the ranting woman thought the three customers with coupons were receiving preferential treatment from the cashier.
“Basically, all she really looked at was the color of their skin, the Latino family and the Indian were both brown skinned, and I just think that shows the kind of ignorance and separation from reality that she has,” Lovano said.
Efforts to identify and contact the woman seen in the video by NBC News were not immediately successful.
Lovano, who emigrated from Sicily when he was a few years old, said the incident made him think of his own family, especially his mom who uses coupons.
Asked if he’d do anything differently if ever confronted with something similar, Lovano replied, “I would hope that I would be more vocal.”
With the video now viral, Lovano said he signed a contract with a company that monetizes such clips.
He said he hopes more people will view it and plans to donate whatever money he makes to an immigrant advocacy group.
“I just think that now more than ever in this current political climate, we need to come together as Americans to fight these kinds of issues and to also really increase empathy towards one another,” Lovano said.