Families of victims and members of the Asian American community are rattled by the remarks made by a high-ranking police official at the Cherokee County Sheriff’s office, who told reporters that Robert Aaron Long, the alleged Georgia spa shooter, pursued his deadly attack at the end of a “really bad day,” according to reports.
“It was a really bad day for him and this is what he did,” Capt. Jay Baker, of the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office, told reporters at a press conference.
Police say it took the 21-year-old assailant under an hour to travel to three different Georgia spas, killing eight people and critically injuring one other, and wreak havoc on an entire community that has witnessed a surge in hate crimes in the last year alone, according to reports.
In total, seven of the victims were women and six of Asian descent.
According to critics who have taken to social media, Baker’s remarks seemingly undercut the assailant’s alleged actions when he said that Long told investigators he was “fed up” and at the “end of his rope,” when he decided to embark on his killing spree on Tuesday.
Authorities say Long started his spree by 5 p.m. and was apprehended by officials in southern Georgia by 9 p.m., according to reports. When questioned by investigators, Long reportedly did not admit to harboring any racial biases but did confess to struggling with a “sexual addiction,” for which he blamed spas.
Social media posts and reporters quickly said that Baker used inappropriately off-tone language during Wednesday night’s announcement.
It was later learned that Baker allegedly promoted anti-Asian T-shirts with a slogan that read, “COVID-19 important virus from CHY-NA” on his personal Facebook account last year, the Daily Beast first reported.
The language used on the t-shirt echoes similar anti-Asian rhetoric previously spewed by former President Donald Trump.
Rodney Bryant, acting chief of the Atlanta Police Department told reporters Wednesday evening that the department is still in its “early stages” of the investigation and has been cautious to call the incident a hate crime.
The public’s concern over the department’s not categorizing the attacks as racially motivated comes as hate crimes against Asian Americans continue to ascend in the U.S.
A new report published by AAPI revealed that there were a reported nearly 3,800 hate crimes committed against Asian Americans from 2020 up until February of this year. Nearly 68.1% of Asian Americans reported they experienced verbal harassment in 2020 and 11.1% of them also experienced physical assault. Asian American women were 2.3 times more likely than men to report incidences of hate crimes.
“To see this [Facebook] post is both disturbing and outrageous. It speaks to the structural racism that we’re all up against,” said Vincent Pan, co-executive director of Chinese for Affirmative Action, a civil rights organization, USA Today reported. “Coupled with the comments coming out of the news conference, it does not give community members confidence that our experiences and the pain and the suffering that we’re feeling are being taken seriously, at least by this particular person.”
A national conversation has surfaced about what actions legally constitute a hate crime and how damaging and insidious cultural stereotypes can be on individuals.
Nearly 200 people gathered Wednesday evening at a vigil held for the victims of the spa killings and to stand in solidarity for Asian Americans in Jackson Heights, Queens, the New York Times reported.
Baker did not respond to requests for comment from Inside Edition Digital.