UCLA student and social media influencer Arine Kim said she was racially harassed by a stranger at an In-N-Out Burger on Christmas Eve.
Kim, 20, and her friend Elliot Ha, both of Korean descent, were recording a TikTok of themselves eating at the California fast-food chain when they were approached by a man who called them "weird homosexuals," according to Kim.
The man asked about their race and ethnicity before making homophobic and anti-Asian comments, according to the TikTok video. In an interview with ABC News, Kim said the man was also bothering other In-N-Out customers.
"I actually felt like my life was in danger and I wasn't sure if I was gonna get home that day," she said.
Kim, who had been recording the interaction the whole time, ultimately decided to post the real-time video of the incident to her TikTok account.
Following an investigation from the San Ramon Police Department after Kim’s video amassed millions of views, the man, identified by police as 40-year-old Jordan Douglas Krah, was arrested on hate crime charges under California’s Penal Code 422.6 hate crime statute. Krah posted bail on Tuesday and is no longer in police custody, according to the San Ramon Police Department. Investigators will meet with the Contra Costa County District Attorney's Office later this week to request that charges be filed against him.
Kim said she was hesitant to post the TikTok video because she didn’t think anyone, police included, would care.
"I was honestly so scared to post it originally because I thought it was just going to be the same situation in high school that I experienced: 'Oh, you're making a big deal out of nothing. Go cry about it,'" she said. "The internet is such a fickle place. You really don't know how anyone is going to react to anything."
After posting the video, she said she only left her house to file a police report, fearing the suspect was outside her home, waiting to retaliate.
She said she is glad she did. With the exception of some critical comments, she said she’s received a lot of support, including from former high school classmates. Empathetic In-N-Out customers offered to pay for her meal when she returned on the day of the arrest.
Kim said she hopes her experience encourages others to report similar incidents.
"This story is getting so much more attention than I thought it would and so many more people are speaking out about the kind of experiences that they have gone through," she said, adding that the response gave her a new understanding of the power of her platform. "Prior to posting the video, I had close to 200,000 followers on TikTok, and had I not recorded that encounter, and had I not posted on my account, I think more people wouldn't realize how severe, how dangerous it is for us, for people of color, for Asian Americans, for everyone."
Kim said she and Ha are now thinking about what they can do to help others who face discrimination and hate.
"This happens to other people on a daily basis and they don't have an avenue to be able to speak out about this," she said.
She said racism and bigotry in America go far beyond what she experienced on Christmas Eve.
"I really hope that you know, us as a society can stop normalizing these kinds of behaviors or diminishing the behavior and diminishing the experiences of other minorities," she said.