UPDATED: 10:02 a.m. EDT, May 29 — The woman who was seen in a video pulling a gun on a Black couple at a campground in Mississippi has been fired, according to the company she worked for. Without using her name, KOA Kampgrounds announced the employee had been “relieved of her duties at the Starkville KOA” in a series of tweets responding to angry tweets posted as the video was going viral.
Social media users identified the woman as Ruby Howell, according to a number of unverified tweets like this one.
A Facebook account under the name of Ruby Howell features photos showing a woman who resembles the woman in the video. Many of the posts on her page are about love and religion, two things that were absent from her words to Jessica Richardson, her husband, who were simply trying to have a picnic with their dog at the Okibbeha County Lake Kampgrounds of America (KOA) in Starkville, Mississippi.
The now-former campground employee could be seen on video brandishing a pistol as she told the couple they didn’t belong there in part because they didn’t have a reservation. The couple said they later found out that reservations were not necessary for picnics.
It’s very ordinary to see families celebrating Memorial Day weekend by taking in the great outdoors, but for one Black couple, a simple picnic almost cost them their lives.
A video that has since gone viral shows Jessica Richardson, her husband, who she said was a veteran, and their dog being approached by a white woman with her gun drawn at the Okibbeha County Lake Kampgrounds of America (KOA) in Starkville, Mississippi.
“This lady just literally pulled a gun because we’re out here and didn’t have reservations for a lake that we didn’t even know we needed to have reservations for,” Richardson can be heard saying as the video begins.
Though it was hard to hear what the white woman said, she was wearing a KOA employee shirt and clutching a pistol that she appeared ready to use. Richardson told her there was a misunderstanding.
“We didn’t know, the only thing you had to do was tell us to leave,” Richardson said. “We would have left. You did not have to pull a gun.”
The white woman then put her gun in her pocket. “I’m just telling you, you need to leave,” she told the Richardsons. “You can’t be out here.”
Richardson posted the video from their encounter on Facebook, where she wrote that she and her husband decided to check with KOA’s front desk to see if they needed a reservation. The attendant there, who Richardson identified as the woman’s husband and campground property manager along with his wife, said they did not.
Though the name of the gun-toting bigot has not been formally confirmed, a Facebook account credited to Ruby Howell includes photos of a woman who looks exactly like the person who menaced the Black couple on the video. In addition, the KOA website lists “Ruby” as “the manager here.”
Howell’s Facebook profile says that she was retired from the Mississippi Department of Public Safety where she worked as a Driver’s License Examiner. The account did not immediately address the incident, but that didn’t stop Facebook users from leaving angry comments under her most recent posts.
“You should be serving jail time for pulling a weapon and threatening the lives of innocent people!” one user commented.
“This the old gunslinger racist that likes to pull guns on black people trying to have picnics!!!” another user wrote.
It was unclear whether there will be consequences for what happened to the Richardsons, but KOA released a statement acknowledging the incident.
“KOA Inc. is aware of the situation that occurred Sunday, May 26th at the KOA franchise in Starkville, Mississippi. KOA is currently looking into the matter and reaching out to all of the parties involved,” the brief statement said. “Kampgrounds of America prides itself on providing a welcoming, safe environment for everyone to enjoy the outdoors.”