Law enforcement authorities in cities across the United States were on alert Wednesday amid fears that a series of fatal shootings in Atlanta that killed eight had targeted victims primarily because they were Asian-Americans.
Six of those killed in three massage parlors in the Georgia city on Tuesday were women of Asian descent, raising racial concerns.
Suspect Robert Aaron Long, 21, was arrested after a police chase.
On Wednesday morning, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms praised police for their “quick work” and said “a crime against any community is a crime against all of us.”
He said he has been in close contact with the White House and Atlanta police as they “investigate the suspect responsible for this senseless violence in our city.”
“My prayers go out to the families and friends of the victims whose lives were cut short by these shootings,” the mayor said.
Lance Bottoms added: “Yesterday was a tragic day across our state. Whether it is senseless violence that we see on our streets or if it is directed violence like the one we saw yesterday against any community, it is a crime against all of us. “
The Asia Pacific National Forum of American Women said they are “shocked and devastated” by the killings. Sung Yeon Choimorrow, executive director of the group, added: “We mourn with the families of these victims. We are appalled and remain concerned for the safety of our community members across the country as violence against Asian Americans has increased. “
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement Wednesday morning that Joe Biden had been briefed overnight about the “horrific shootings” and that White House officials had been in contact with the Atlanta Mayor’s Office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who was in Seoul meeting with South Korean Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong, said he was “horrified” by the violence, which is believed to have killed four people of Korean ethnicity, and said it “has no place in America or anywhere else.”
He offered his “deepest condolences” to the families and friends of the victims and to “all members of the Korean community who are moved and deeply disturbed by this incident.”
Atlanta police said they had increased patrols in the area of the killings and officers were dispatched to check out similar nearby businesses.
The shootings, believed to have been carried out by a single gunman, began around 5 p.m., when five people were shot at the Youngs Asian Massage parlor in a shopping center near a rural area in Acworth, county. from Cherokee, about 30 miles north of Atlanta. .
The next shooting took place at 5.50pm when Atlanta’s Buckhead neighborhood police, responding to a robbery call, found three women dead from apparent gunshot wounds at Gold Spa.
While at that scene, they learned of a call reporting shooting at another spa across the street, Aromatherapy Spa, and found a woman who appeared to have been shot and killed inside.
The suspect’s car was caught on camera in the Acworth shooting and the suspect was taken into custody in Crisp County.
Lance Bottoms said authorities believe the suspect may have been trying to flee to Florida when he was detained, and may have been planning further attacks in that state.
In New York City, the counter-terrorism office of the police department saying was monitoring the shooting in Georgia and would deploy additional officers to Asian communities throughout the city “as a precaution.”
Seattle officials said they were increasing outreach to Asian Americans and community organizations across the city and police presence with police patrols and community service officers.
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and Police Chief Adrian Diaz called the Atlanta killings an “act of hatred.”
“We mourn with Atlanta and for the victims and their families. We also stand together with our Asian American community against the rise in hate crimes against Asian Americans, especially against Chinese Americans, ”they said in a joint statement.
They added: “In Seattle and across our nation, our Asian American neighbors, places of worship and businesses have been deliberately targeted by racism, xenophobia, and acts of violence related to Covid-19 misconceptions.”
It follows an increase in attacks against Asian Americans across the country since the coronavirus pandemic, which spread after initial infections in China.
US advocacy group Stop AAPI Hate received 3,795 complaints last year and said at least 503 hate incidents against Asians were reported between January 1 and February 28 of this year alone.
Stop AAPI Hate said the Atlanta shootings were “an unspeakable tragedy, for the families of the victims first and foremost, but also for the Asian-American community, which has been reeling from high levels of racist attacks throughout the year. last. “
The organization added: “This latest attack will only exacerbate the fear and pain that the Asian American community continues to suffer.”
However, investigators also believe Long may have a sexual addiction and frequented the types of businesses he allegedly targeted, which authorities described as massage parlors.
“During his interview, he gave no indication that this was racially motivated,” Cherokee County Sheriff Frank Reynolds said.
“We asked him that specifically and the answer was no.”
However, these developments may not do much to lessen fears. California Congresswoman Judy Chu saying Asian Americans “have faced a relentless increase in attacks and harassment over the past year” and urged people on Twitter to “condemn this violence and help us #StopAsianHate.”
Los Angeles and San Francisco, in particular, have large neighborhoods and populations of Asian Americans.
Derrick Johnson, president and CEO of the civil rights campaign group NAACP, condemned the shootings “in the strongest terms.”
Last week, on the first anniversary of the Covid-19 shutdown, Joe Biden condemned the increase in attacks.
The president added: “It’s wrong. He is anti-American. And it must stop. “
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism