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Jana Hollingsworth, Forum News Service, Published February 02 2013

VIDEO: YouTube video of Duluth gas station altercation goes viral

DULUTH, Minn. - When Sam Rosenwinkel posted the video of himself getting sprayed in the eyes with what appeared to be pepper spray at a Duluth gas station in early January, it was for his friends to see.

“It blew up,” he said Friday. “People put it on different websites. It’s not exactly how I expected it to turn out.”

The video has gone viral through YouTube sharing and other sites, with hundreds of thousands of viewings and hundreds of comments. Many of the commenters saw the incident as racial in tone.

The video shows Rosenwinkel, who is white, in line behind a black woman at the Super America at 602 E. Fourth St. last month waiting to make a purchase. He attempted to cut in line when it looked to him as though the woman wasn’t ready, and it ignited a hostile exchange between the two.

The woman extended the length of her purchase, picking muffins to buy one by one. She seemed to grow angrier as the banter between them continued, threatening to have her boyfriend hurt him. Rosenwinkel laughed at her muffin purchases and seemed incredulous at her profanity-laced statements, at one point asking, “Did that just happen?” Finally, she told him: “Say something else.”

“Else,” he said.

The video then showed the woman spraying Rosenwinkel in the face with a personal defense spray. She left the store singing the title line from “Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I’m Yours.”

Rosenwinkel said nothing happened preceding the four-minute video and nothing happened following it, “other than me going home and washing my eyes out.”

One YouTube commenter, who signed in as Lashid4u, wrote, “Did she not warn (him)? A white male expecting a black female to ‘step aside’ can be a very sensitive issue for black people … he was not frustrated. The whole time he was laughing … She may have saved his life, teaching him a lesson.” In the future someone might use a weapon that could cause more damage, the commenter wrote.

Commenter Juliano Alvarez wrote that Rosenwinkel might have been in a hurry.

“She didn’t have to be so ignorant and childish,” Alvarez wrote. “She bought a lot of muffins just to make a person wait longer. What kind of adult with any form of maturity does that?”

Rosenwinkel wouldn’t say how he obtained the video, other than it “fell into his lap.”

He also wouldn’t comment on whether he filed a police report. But Duluth police spokesman Jim Hansen said no report on the incident had been filed. Hansen said it could be considered assault to “mace” or pepper-spray someone, unless it was done in self-defense.

Rosenwinkel is an easygoing guy, said Jeff Rosenthal, a friend of Rosenwinkel’s.

“He was in a hurry because he was in a cab,” he said, noting the incident happened about 2 a.m. “He was just trying to make a joke out of it.”

The viral reaction to the video has been “crazy” to Rosenwinkel’s friends, Rosenthal said, but none of them are comfortable with people saying the incident was racial.

“Sam doesn’t have a bone of hatred in his body,” he said. “He was shocked by that. He’s not trying to get into a race debate. He was just being funny.”

Attempts to identify the woman in the video were unsuccessful. Jack Curtis, owner of the Super America, did not return a reporter’s phone call Friday.