Federal Way police investigating racist tagging of Starbucks sign

Federal Way police are investigating a racist statement that was painted on a Starbucks sign Oct. 31st, in full view of customers and commuters on Pacific Hwy. S.

When frequent Starbucks customer Shar Bennett saw "Whites Only" painted in white capital letters on the dark gray sign, she tagged the company on Facebook.

"It hurt my heart," she said. "If I would've had something to cover it up, I would have."

Bennett alerted the Starbucks staff.  "They said that they'd already cleaned it off," and I said, 'Well, it's back on there.'''

"I felt like I was in 'The Twilight Zone,' because people were just going about their business," she said.

Bennett says she felt she was looking out for the company's reputation when she reached out to Starbucks again, urging them to remove or cover up the sign, which she said by late morning was upsetting customers and passersby.

"Stop with the coffee orders, stop what you're doing, there's nothing more important than getting that off of your sign," Bennett said.

Eventually, Federal Way police took a report, and the Starbucks staff cleaned the statement off the sign. "I did get a message from Starbucks," Bennett said. "They dealt with it."

Bennett says she's a huge Starbucks fan, and her anger is directed at the vandal and not the company. But she said there should be a company protocol when hate speech appears on their property.

Starbucks sent KIRO 7 a statement Saturday morning addressing the incident.

"This was a reprehensible act of vandalism and we acted quickly to remove it once it was discovered. Hatred and discrimination of any kind are not welcome in our stores," said Jory Mendes, who works in corporate communications for the company.

"Afterwards I wasn't sure if it was the right thing to do, but I'm glad I did it," she said.

Federal Way police are looking for the vandal who painted the sign. Neighboring cities have recently investigated some racist graffiti incidents as hate crimes.

More news from KIRO 7