WORLD / AMERICAS
US senator, more lawmakers voice their doubts
Published: Mar 22, 2021 08:13 PM
US Democratic Senator Tammy Duckworth on Sunday expressed doubts about FBI Director Chris Wray's initial assessment that the fatal shooting of six Asian women in Atlanta-area spas may not constitute a hate crime, saying it "looks racially motivated."

Democratic mayoral candidate Andrew Yang speaks to people as they take part in a rally against hate at Columbus Park in China Town, on Sunday, March 21, 2021, in New York. Photo: VCG

Democratic mayoral candidate Andrew Yang speaks to people as they take part in a rally against hate at Columbus Park in China Town, on Sunday, March 21, 2021, in New York. Photo: VCG


"From where I sit, I want to see a deeper investigation into whether or not these shootings and other similar crimes are racially motivated," Duckworth, who is one of only two Asian-Americans currently serving in the US Senate, told CBS "Face the Nation."

"It looks racially motivated to me," she said, adding the caveat that she is not a police officer or personally investigating the crimes.

Police in Atlanta are still investigating the motive in connection with the fatal shooting of eight people, six of whom were Asian women, on Tuesday. The Federal Bureau of Investigation is assisting with the investigation.

In an interview with NPR on Thursday, Wray said that it "does not appear" that race factored into the mass shooting.

Georgia Senator Raphael Warnock, speaking on NBC's "Meet the Press," also questioned that assessment, suggesting he believes race played a role. "We all know hate when we see it," he said. "It is tragic that we've been visited by this kind of violence yet again."

The shootings have stoked fears among those in the Asian-American and Pacific Islander communities, which have reported a spike in hate crimes since March 2020.

Suspected gunman Robert Aaron Long, a 21-year-old Atlanta-area resident who is white, told police that sexual frustration led him to commit the violence.

Cherokee County Sheriff's Office Captain Jay Baker, who told the media in a press conference that a sexual addiction may have fueled the crime and said Long had had "a really bad day," has since come under criticism from political leaders and civil rights advocates for making insensitive comments. They noted such remarks only fuel stigmas about race, gender and sex work.

The sheriff's office later acknowledged the remarks had sparked anger, but said Baker never intended to offend anyone. Baker is no longer serving as a spokesman for the case.

The incidence of hate crimes against Asian-Americans rose by 149 percent in 2020 in 16 major cities compared with 2019, according to the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism.

Duckworth is among a growing number of Asian-American lawmakers who have urged law enforcement to more carefully examine the escalating violence. "It looks to me that he knew he was going to places where disproportionately the people he shot up would be Asians, and female, and I think the investigators need to really look at these facts," Representative Ted Lieu, a member of the House Judiciary Committee, told CNN on Wednesday, referring to Long.
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