The Sacramento man who harassed an elderly Asian man for wearing a camouflage shirt in a viral video posted earlier this month said he assumed the man was trying to get free items by wearing the military clothing.
“This gentleman appeared as if he was current, active military," Alex Wolpert, the man in the video, told the Sacramento Bee on Wednesday. “It’s because they get discounts, it’s because they get free stuff.”
He said the video didn’t show the man wearing a hat that read U.S. Army and other military-style clothing. Wolpert, who grew up in Sacramento, also asked the man if he served in the armed forces.
“I don’t think he spoke much English, and at that point, I was a little triggered," he said.
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Wolpert gained public notoriety after a viral video of the incident was shared on Facebook on May 13 by someone claiming they were posting it on behalf of their parents, who live in Sacramento.
“I’m a Marine, I fought for my country,” Wolpert says in the video, pointing at the elderly man. “And this m----------- is going to wear that s---?”
Wolpert said he comes from a military family but admitted to lying about his status as a U.S. Marine.
“I was caught up and emotionally upset," he said.
A post that accompanied the clip said the incident happened earlier that day between 16th Street and Broadway as the parents were headed to a farmer’s market.
The elderly man dropped off his wife as he looked for parking. He then found a spot, got out of the car and was approached by Wolpert, who began screaming at him and threatened to kill him, the post says.
The post also explains that Wolpert called the elderly man a "Vietnamese communist," though he is a veteran of the Vietnam War, fighting for Laos on the U.S. side. Wolpert denies making that claim.
“I just grabbed the man’s shoulder. I did not hurt him," Wolpert said. "I did not hit him. It was more expressing myself.”
The 40-second video captured the end of the interaction and was filmed by the elderly man’s wife after she heard the yelling and rushed to help her husband. She is heard apologizing and telling Wolpert that her husband would take off the shirt.
The video ends as the woman reaches the driver’s seat of the car, where the elderly man was sitting on the passenger's side.
Wolpert said he was currently taking classes at a rehabilitation center in light of the incident. He and his family have received death threats, he said.