ATLANTA—Police mentioned Thursday that “nothing is off the desk” within the investigation of the lethal shootings at two Atlanta therapeutic massage parlors, together with whether or not the slayings had been a hate crime.
These assaults and a 3rd one close to the suburban city of Woodstock killed eight folks and prompted President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris to alter their plans for a beforehand scheduled journey to Atlanta. The pair postponed a political occasion in favor of assembly Friday with Asian American group leaders.
A 21-year-old white man, Robert Aaron Lengthy, is charged with homicide in Tuesday’s slayings. Six of these killed had been girls of Asian descent.
“Our investigation is taking a look at every little thing, so nothing is off the desk,” Deputy Atlanta Police Chief Charles Hampton Jr. mentioned at a information convention.
The Cherokee County Sheriff’s Workplace mentioned it additionally was investigating whether or not the killings had been hate crimes.
Georgia lawmakers final 12 months handed a hate crimes regulation that enables extra penalties to be imposed for sure offenses when motivated by a sufferer’s race, shade, faith, nationwide origin, intercourse, sexual orientation, gender or incapacity. A hate crime isn’t a standalone crime underneath the regulation, however it may be used so as to add time to a sentence as soon as somebody is convicted of one other crime.
Investigators imagine Lengthy had beforehand visited two of the Atlanta therapeutic massage parlors the place 4 of the ladies had been killed, Hampton mentioned.
Lengthy instructed police that the assaults weren’t racially motivated. He claimed to have a intercourse habit, and authorities mentioned he apparently lashed out at what he noticed as sources of temptation.
Lengthy’s statements spurred outrage and widespread skepticism within the Asian American group, which has more and more been focused for violence throughout the coronavirus pandemic. Cherokee County Sheriff’s Workplace spokesman Capt. Jay Baker additionally drew criticism for saying Lengthy had “a very unhealthy day” and “that is what he did.”
Sheriff Frank Reynolds launched an announcement Thursday acknowledging that a few of Baker’s feedback stirred “a lot debate and anger” and mentioned the company regrets any “heartache” brought on by his phrases.
“In as a lot as his phrases had been taken or construed as insensitive or inappropriate, they weren’t meant to disrespect any of the victims, the gravity of this tragedy or specific empathy or sympathy for the suspect,” Reynolds mentioned, including that Baker “had a troublesome job earlier than him, and this was one of many hardest in his 28 years in regulation enforcement.”
Baker was changed Thursday as spokesman for the investigation, in accordance with an announcement from a county spokesman who mentioned she could be dealing with future media inquiries concerning the slayings.
The sheriff’s assertion didn’t tackle a 2020 Fb publish that appeared to have been written by Baker selling a t-shirt with racist language about China and the coronavirus. Baker has not commented on the publish, which was taken down Wednesday.
In the meantime, lawyer J. Daran Burns issued an announcement saying he had been appointed to characterize Lengthy. He provided condolences to the victims’ households and mentioned he was engaged on Lengthy’s behalf “to research the information and circumstances” surrounding the slayings.
Lengthy waived his proper to an preliminary listening to in Cherokee County Justice of the Peace Court docket on his lawyer’s recommendation, the assertion mentioned.
Biden and Harris had already been scheduled to journey to Atlanta to tout the $1.9-trillion Covid-19 aid invoice, however the journey took on new which means after the shootings. The go to additionally comes amid an intense debate over voter rights in Georgia.
Biden and Harris, the primary vp of Asian descent, will as an alternative meet with Asian American leaders to debate threats in opposition to the group, meet with different native leaders and go to the Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention for an replace on the pandemic.
Additionally Thursday, Biden directed that flags be flown at half-staff via sundown Monday in honor of the lifeless.
Lots of of Asian People and Pacific Islanders, in the meantime, turned to social media to air their anger, unhappiness, concern and hopelessness. The hashtag #StopAsianHate was a high trending subject on Twitter hours after the shootings Tuesday night.
“I feel the rationale why individuals are feeling so hopeless is as a result of Asian People have been ringing the bell on this challenge for therefore lengthy…. We’ve been elevating the crimson flag,” mentioned Aisha Yaqoob Mahmood, govt director of the Atlanta-based Asian American Advocacy Fund, which does political and advocacy work throughout Georgia.
Many additionally had been outraged that the suspect, 21-year-old Lengthy, was not instantly charged with hate crimes.
Picture credit: AP