The crime scene tape surrounds Gold Spa following fatal shootings at a massage parlor and two-day spas in the Atlanta area of Atlanta, Georgia, the United States, on March 16, 2021.
Chris Aluka Berry | Reuters
President Joe Biden said Wednesday that he had been briefed by senior law enforcement officers in his administration about the deadly rampage in the Atlanta area that killed eight people, including reportedly six Asian women.
Attorney General Merrick Garland and FBI Director Christopher Wray phone Biden to brief him on the shootings at three spas that have led leaders to condemn a recent surge in violence against Asian Americans.
“The investigation is still ongoing and the question of motivation has yet to be clarified,” said Biden at the start of a virtual meeting with the Irish Prime Minister.
“But whatever the motivation here, I know Asian Americans are very concerned because, as you know, I’ve talked about the brutality against Asian Americans and it’s worrying,” the president said.
Biden said he was awaiting more information from the Justice Department and the FBI, adding, “I will have more to say when the investigation is completed.”
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said earlier that Biden was initially informed of the shootings overnight and that officers “contacted the mayor’s office and would stay in touch with the FBI.”
Authorities have arrested a suspect, Robert Aaron Long, 21, from Woodstock, Georgia. When asked if the attacks were racially motivated, Cherokee County Sheriff Frank Reynolds said they asked the suspect this specific question and that “it did not appear to be the motive.”
“We believe he has visited these places in the past and may have flogged,” Reynolds said, adding that Long said he may have been a sex addict.
However, Reynolds said it was still early on in the investigation.
Long was charged with murder and aggravated assault, NBC News reported.
This booking photo provided by the Crisp County Sheriff’s Office shows Robert Aaron Long on Tuesday March 16, 2021. Long was arrested as a suspect in the fatal shootings in three massage parlors in the Atlanta area, most of them women of Asian descent, said the authorities.
Crisp County Sheriff’s Office | AP
On a call with Irish leaders Wednesday morning, Vice President Kamala Harris expressed solidarity with the Asian-American community.
“It’s tragic. Our country, the President and I and we all mourn the lost. Our prayers are with the families of those killed. This speaks to a bigger problem, namely the issue of violence in our country and what we need to do about it never to tolerate it and always speak out against it, “said Harris.
“The investigation is still ongoing. We don’t know yet, the motive is not clear to us,” she said. “But I would like to say to our Asian-American community that we stand with you and understand how this has terrified, shocked and outraged everyone.”
Vice President Kamala Harris speaks about the gunfights in the Atlanta area prior to a virtual bilateral meeting with Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin at the Vice President’s ceremonies office in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building next to the White House in Washington, DC on March 17, 2021.
Almond Ngan | AFP | Getty Images
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., said in the Senate Wednesday that “there are legitimate concerns that these killings may be racially motivated”.
In the US, there have been skyrocketing reports of incidents against Asian Americans during the coronavirus pandemic.
Advocacy group Stop AAPI Hate announced Tuesday that it had received 3,795 reports of hate incidents against Asian Americans and islanders in the Pacific between March 19, 2020 and February 28, 2020.
Democrats, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, have urged Congress to pass laws aimed at improving hate crime reporting and providing greater support to victims.
“I am heartbroken for the victims of last night’s terrible shootings in Georgia and for the families of the victims,” Georgian Democratic Senator Jon Ossoff said in a statement.
“While the motive for last night’s horrific violence is still being explored, I express my love, support, and solidarity with the Asian-American community which has seen a shocking surge in violence and harassment over the past year,” Ossoff said.
Numerous Asian American leaders and activists stand ready to testify in front of a House Civil Rights panel Thursday about increasing discrimination and violence against their communities amid the pandemic.
The live-stream hearing before the Constitutional, Civil Rights and Liberties Subcommittee is said to include testimony from several Asian American lawmakers, including Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., The first Thai American to be elected to Congress. The other lawmakers are Democratic Representatives Doris Matsui and Judy Chu from California and Grace Meng from New York.