By Sarah N. Lynch and Valerie Volcovici
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – US Democratic Senator Tammy Duckworth on Sunday expressed doubts about FBI Director Chris Wray’s initial assessment that the shooting of six Asian women at spas in the Atlanta region had could not constitute hateful crime, saying it “has racial motives.”
“From where I sit, I would like to see a deeper investigation into whether these shootings and other similar crimes are racially motivated,” said Duckworth, one of two Asian Americans who are currently served in the US Senate, telling CBS “Face the Country.”
“It looks racially motivated to me,” she said, adding that she wasn’t a police officer or investigating crime.
Police in Atlanta are still investigating engines linked to the 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 last week, Wray said that although investigation into the motivations of suspected gunman Robert Aaron Long is still underway, “it does not appear that” the race has led to a decision. about to carry out his mass shooting.
Georgia Sen. Raphael Warnock, speaking on NBC’s “Meet the Press”, also questioned that assessment, suggesting he believes race plays a role.
“We all hate when we see it,” he said. “It is tragic that we have been visited by this kind of violence again.”
The shootings have sparked fears among the Asian-American community in the Pacific Island, which has reported an increase in hate crime since March 2020 when then-President Donald Trump arrested The first considered COVID-19 as “Chinese virus”.
Long, an Atlanta resident, 21, who is white, told police that his sexual frustration caused him to commit the act of violence.
Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office chief, Jay Baker, who told the media during a press conference that sex addiction could be the cause of the crime and said that Long had “a real day. bad, “has since been criticized by political leaders and civil rights advocates for making undesirable comments, noting such remarks only helped spark stigmatization. about race, sex and prostitution.
The sheriff’s office later admitted the remarks had sparked anger, but said Baker never intended to offend anyone. Baker no longer serves as spokesman for the case.
Hostile crime rates against Asian Americans have grown 149% by 2020 in 16 major cities compared with 2019, according to the Center for the Study of Hatred and Extremism.
President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris visited Atlanta on Friday to support Asian Americans and meet community leaders.
On Sunday, Biden also stressed the need to stop gender-based violence and keep women safe.
“Over the past few weeks, we have seen too many examples of horrible and brutal assaults on women, including tragic murders in Georgia. And we have seen even greater harm than that. living under the daily specter of gender violence inflicts women everywhere It hurts all of us and we all have to do more to create a society where women are. can continue their lives free from violence, “he said in a statement.
The Justice Department earlier said it would step up investigations into hate crimes against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
Duckworth said on Sunday she wrote a letter to Wray and Attorney General Merrick Garland asking them to take a closer look “to see how many crimes are actually reported as hate crimes.”
“Many of these crimes are less reported as hate crimes and are only classified as stalking or harassing or destructive when they are actually targeted as Asian Americans and their citizens,” she said. Pacific Islands ”.
A Justice Department spokesman did not immediately comment on the letter.