MABLETON, Ga. (FOX 5 Atlanta) - A pregnant African American lawmaker in Georgia claims she was verbally attacked in a supermarket Friday by a middle-aged white man who used profanity, called her vulgar names and told her to "go back where you came from" as her 9-year-old daughter looked on, but the man involved in the incident has a very different story.
Rep. Erica Thomas, a Democrat from Austell, said the man was irate that she was in an express line with too many items. Thomas said she was in a line for customers with 10 items or less because she cannot stand for long periods of time.
"And this white man comes up to me and says, 'You lazy son of a b****,'" Thomas said, sobbing as she described the confrontation in a Facebook video. "He says, 'You lazy son of a b****; you need to go back where you came from.'"
Thomas said she was stunned by his anger. "I said, 'Sir, you don't even know me. I'm not lazy. I'm nine months pregnant.'"
The man involved in the incident, Eric Sparkes, spoke with FOX 5's Will Nunley Saturday night and denied using those words during the confrontation with Thomas.
Sparkes said once he approached Thomas and told her that she had too many items in her cart to be in the express lane, she became the aggressor towards him.
"She says I say, 'go back where you came from,' I never said that, I never would say to anyone," Sparkes said.
Sparkes also said he believed Thomas' response is politically motivated, but Thomas said she never identified herself to the man as a public official. She said she was so taken aback by his actions that she didn't think to try to record them.
Sparkes admitted he used the “B” word in front of her child and should apologize for using the word, but denied he is a racist and added Thomas should apologize for making what he says are false claims.
The incident came days after President Donald Trump tweeted that four congresswomen of color, including U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, should go back to the "broken and crime-infested" countries they came from.
In Thomas' video, she alludes to Trump's attacks on Omar. Thomas never mentions Trump's name but says, "There's so much hate in this world and it's being incited by our president every single day."
Thomas told The Associated Press that it appeared the man had already paid for his groceries when he approached her.
"He ran up on me and just verbally assaulted me," she said in the AP interview. At one point, Thomas said, the man told her "You people are ignorant."
Thomas said a store employee at the Mableton Publix at some point approached the man and told him to leave. She said she believes store employees were slow to respond to the assault.
Thomas said she notified police and that she would seek store video of the incident.
Cobb County Police confirmed Saturday night that they’ve launched an investigation.
Cobb County Police Public Information Officer Wayne Delk told FOX 5, “This is an active investigation and any video in our possession would be part of said investigation.”
In a statement to FOX 5, Publix spokesperson Brenda Reid said, “At Publix, we are committed to creating a safe and welcoming shopping experience for all our customers. We are cooperating with local law enforcement as they look into the matter.”
Reid said the company would not be releasing footage of the incident because of the open investigation.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.