US President Joe Biden, in Atlanta Friday to console the Asian-American community following a series of grisly killings, told citizens not to be complicit and to take action to prevent race-related violence.
“Silence is complicity, we cannot be complicit. We have to speak out, we have to act,” Biden said in a speech at Emory University urging Americans to fight what he called a “resurgence of xenophobia.”
Minutes earlier the president and Vice President Kamala Harris met leaders of Georgia’s Asian-American community in the wake of eight people, including six women of Asian descent, being shot dead at massage parlors in the Atlanta area.
Atlanta police on Thursday were considering all motives including hate crime in the fatal shootings of Asian women at two spas in the city as a U.S. lawmaker said the Asian-American community was “screaming out for help” to combat discrimination.
Robert Aaron Long has been charged with murdering four people at the spas in Atlanta and four more in a spa in Cherokee County about 40 miles (64 km) to its north on Tuesday. Six of the victims were women of Asian descent.
“Our investigation is looking at everything, so nothing is off the table for our investigation,” Atlanta Deputy Police Chief Charles Hampton told a news conference in response to a question about whether police were looking at the killings as hate crimes.
Long, a 21-year-old white male, suggested to investigators that a sex addiction led him to violence. Lawmakers and anti-racism advocates have speculated the killings were motivated at least in part by anti-Asian sentiments.
Investigators believe Long had previously visited two of the Atlanta massage parlors where four of the women were killed, Hampton said. Long told police that the attacks were not racially motivated. He claimed to have a sex addiction, and authorities said he apparently lashed out at what he saw as sources of temptation.
Longs statements spurred outrage and widespread skepticism in the Asian American community, which has increasingly been targeted for violence during the coronavirus pandemic. Cherokee County Sheriffs Office spokesman Capt. Jay Baker also drew criticism for saying Long had a really bad day and this is what he did.
Sheriff Frank Reynolds released a statement Thursday acknowledging that some of Bakers comments stirred much debate and anger and said the agency regrets any heartache caused by his words. In as much as his words were taken or construed as insensitive or inappropriate, they were not intended to disrespect any of the victims, the gravity of this tragedy or express empathy or sympathy for the suspect, Reynolds said, adding that Baker had a difficult task before him, and this was one of the hardest in his 28 years in law enforcement.