A white couple has been arrested in Michigan in connection with a viral video of an argument in a Chipotle parking lot, in which a woman appeared to point a gun at a Black mother and her teenage daughter.
Jillian Wuestenberg, 32, and Eric Wuestenberg, 42, have been charged with felonious assault over the incident, Oakland County authorities said in a release on Thursday. It was not immediately clear when they would be arraigned or if they have attorneys who could comment on the allegations.
The charges stem from an argument at a Chipotle in Orion Township, Mich., on Wednesday. The white woman allegedly bumped into the Black teenager at the entrance to the restaurant, sparking an argument that escalated quickly, over a matter of about three minutes.
Video of the incident shows a Black woman and her daughter, 15, arguing with a white couple. The Black woman can be heard accusing the white woman of bumping the girl, although that part does not appear in the video. The Black women repeatedly call the white woman “ignorant” and demand that she apologize.
The white woman initially accuses the family of blocking the door to her car. The women move out of the way and the white man opens the door for his partner to get into the vehicle. The white woman then rolls down her window and continues arguing with the Black women.
“You cannot just walk around calling white people ‘racist,’” the white woman says from inside the car. “This is not that type of world. White people aren’t racist. No one’s racist. I care about you.”
The mother repeatedly asks: “Why would you bump her?”
“I’m sorry if you had an incident that has made someone make you feel like that,” the white woman says, before rolling up her window.
The incident appears to be over and the girl with the camera turns away. However, she turns the camera back and shouts at her mother a moment later, just as the van backs up with the mother in its path. Several people start shouting and the camera is jumbled around as the girl runs toward the confrontation.
“Get the f— away!” the white woman shouts, and the sound a gun cocking can be heard. The video then shows the white woman pointing a gun at the Black mother.
“She’s got a gun on me!” the Black woman says.
People on both sides of the argument shout for someone to call the police. The white woman accuses the Black woman of jumping behind her car, then starts screaming: “Get the f— back!” while backing up. The woman then abruptly lowers her gun and gets in the vehicle.
“These white people, they’re so racist!” the girl with the camera says. “They pulled a gun on my mama!”
The video ends with the van pulling out of the parking lot and squealing its tires as it drives away.
The video was initially posted on Twitter, where it racked up more than 13 million views before it was removed. The original poster described the white woman as a “Karen” — a term for a white woman who escalates her trivial complaints to someone in authority, such as police or a manager.
The girl, Makayla Green, says the whole argument started when the woman bumped her at the door to the restaurant.
“She bumped me, and I said, ‘Excuse you.’ And then she started cussing me out and saying things like I was invading her personal space,” Green told the Detroit News.
Green’s mother, Takelia Hill, says she saw the woman yelling at her daughter so she intervened.
“I walked up on the woman yelling at my daughter,” Hill told the paper. “She couldn’t see me because her back was to me, but she was in my daughter’s face.”
Wuestenberg told police she didn’t realize she’d bumped the girl, authorities said.
Hill says her other daughters were in her car at the time, and they were shocked to witness the incident.
Authorities reviewed the available video before filing charges, Oakland County Prosecutor Jessica Cooper told the Associated Press.
“It is an unfortunate set of circumstances that tempers run high over, basically, not much of an incident,” she said.
The Wuestenbergs have concealed pistol licences, Sheriff Michael Bouchard told reporters on Thursday. He says deputies seized two pistols from the couple and detained them on Wednesday night.
Bouchard said people are “picking sides” in the argument, and many have made threatening calls to the sheriff’s office.
“We don’t see sides. We see facts,” he said. “There’s a lot of tension in our society, a lot of tension among folks and people with each other.”
He added that he’s urging his officers to focus on deescalating tense situations, and he would urge others to do the same.
“Deescalate those moments,” he said.
Oakland University in Michigan said on Thursday that it had fired Eric Wuestenberg over the video. Wuestenberg worked in veterans support services at the school, ABC 13 reports.
“We deem this behaviour unacceptable,” a university spokesperson said.
The incident comes at a tense moment in the United States, where tens of thousands have marched over the last month to protest anti-Black racism and police brutality. The protests erupted after the death of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man who died in police custody in Minneapolis after an officer knelt on his neck for over eight minutes in May.
Floyd died just a few days after police burst into the home of Breonna Taylor, a Black EMT, and shot her dead in Louisville, Ky. Both incidents occurred around the same time that video surfaced of the killing of Ahmaud Arbery, a Black jogger who was ambushed by white vigilantes in Georgia last February.
The Michigan incident also comes at a time when people have been quick to record and call out white women for behaving like “Karens” in public.
Perhaps the most high-profile case occurred in May, when a white woman called police on a Black birdwatcher who asked her to leash her dog in Manhattan’s Central Park.
“I’m gonna tell them there’s an African-American man threatening my life,” the woman, Amy Cooper, said in a viral video of the incident. The video shows her following through on the threat while the man, Christian Cooper, recorded her on his phone.
Earlier this week, critics described a lawyer couple as a “Ken and Karen,” after they stood outside their St. Louis mansion with guns while Black Lives Matter protesters passed by on their way to the mayor’s residence. Video showed the lawyers, who were white, pointing a pistol and an AR-15 rifle from the steps of their home.
—With files from The Associated Press