Outrage over police officer's three-word remark on spa massacre

Brianne Tolj

People are outraged after a senior police officer described the massacre of eight people, including six of Asian descent, as the result of a 21-year-old man’s “really bad day”.

Robert Aaron Long allegedly targeted three Atlanta-based spas on Tuesday (local time). The eight people killed included a white male and female.

Long was arrested hours later and has been charged with eight counts of murder and one count of aggravated assault, according to law enforcement officials in Atlanta and Cherokee County.

During a press conference on Wednesday (local time), Captain Jay Baker of the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Department said Long denied that the attack was racially motivated.

After dropping off flowers Jesus Estrella, left, and Shelby S., right, stand in support of the Asian and Hispanic community outside Youngs Asian Massage parlour where four people were killed. Source: AAP
Robert Aaron Long allegedly targeted three Atlanta-based spas on Tuesday (local time), killing eight people, also including a white male and female. Source: AAP

Police claim he also told them he has sexual addiction issues and apparently lashed out at what he saw as sources of temptation.

“The suspect did take responsibility for the shooting,” Captain Baker said.

“These locations, he sees them as an outlet for him, something that he shouldn’t be doing. It’s a temptation for him that he wanted to eliminate.”

“He was at the end of his rope and fed up. Yesterday was a really bad day for him and this is what he did.”

It was not clear if the suspect visited spas for sex.

Thousands slam police response

Shocked viewers were quick to slam Captain Baker’s remarks - insisting the shootings were racially motivated, pointing to an increase in attacks on Asians over the past year.

Numerous people took to Twitter to lash out at the captain’s “bad day” comment, and as a result the shooting and hashtags #whitepriveledge and #whitesupremacy are trending.

“This is revolting. A “bad day” doesn’t drive you to murder,” one woman wrote.

“Exactly, why are we asking the racist if they identify as a racist in the first place?” another asked.

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“That they believe that bull**** over its being a hate crime is telling. Disappointed but not surprised,” a third woman sad.

“The f*****g gall of a white male mass murderer to confidently tell on himself to police,” actor Eugene Lee Yang wrote on Twitter.

“The piece of s**t said, ‘I’m not racist because I have a sex addiction that made me eliminate people and places I'm tempted by, which are Asian women at Asian spas’.

“THAT'S A HATE CRIME.”

Mr Yang’s post has been liked and retweeted by more than 40,000 people.

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms strongly discouraged victim blaming.

“We are not about to get into victim blaming, victim shaming, here,” she said on Wednesday.

“We don’t know additional information about what his motives were. We will not begin to blame victims, and as far as we know in Atlanta these are legally operating businesses that have not been on our radar, the radar of [the Atlanta Police Department].”

Captain Jay Baker, of the Cherokee County Sheriffs Office, addresses media during a press conference. Source: AAP
Shocked viewers were quick to slam Captain Baker’s remarks, insisting the shootings were racially motivated. Source: AAP

Demand for police to call massacre a hate crime

Despite police insistence, thousands of people online have deemed the massacre as a hate crime toward Asians.

Asian American lawmakers have expressed heartbreak on social media and emphasised the need to support Asian American communities during this moment.

The shootings appear to be at the “intersection of gender-based violence, misogyny and xenophobia,” state Rep. Bee Nguyen said, the first Vietnamese American to serve in the Georgia House and a frequent advocate for women and communities of colour.

“As we wait for more details to emerge, I ask everyone to remember that hurtful words and rhetoric have real life consequences,” Rep. Judy Chu of California wrote on Twitter.

“Please stand up, condemn this violence, and help us #StopAsianHate.”

Robert Aaron Long. Source: AAP
This booking photo provided by the Crisp County Sheriff's Office shows Robert Aaron Long. Source: AAP

A report by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism this month showed that hate crimes against Asian-Americans in 16 major US cities rose by 149 per cent from 2019 to 2020, a period when overall hate crimes dropped seven per cent.

The advocacy group Stop AAPI Hate has said the rise appeared to result from Asians and Asian-Americans being blamed for the pandemic, which originated in China.

Former President Donald Trump called the novel coronavirus the “China virus,” the “China plague” and even the “kung flu.”

“There is still a lot unknown about this but one thing is clear: the Asian-American community already has been living with fear for the last year because of racism,” lawyer John Yang, who worked in former President Barack Obama’s administration, posted on Twitter on Tuesday night.

“These murders will intensify that fear.”

with Reuters and AP

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