SAN JOSE (KPIX) — Outrage has swept across the country from those who believe investigators overlooking the mass shooting case in Georgia should charge the suspect with a hate crime.
“To me that’s clearly a hate crime, it seems to me he sought out a place where there were Asian women, he executed them and he murdered them,” said Asian Law Alliance Executive Director Richard Konda.READ MORE: California Background Check System Snafus Delay Elder Care Hiring
On Tuesday, Robert Aaron Long was arrested after he allegedly shot and killed eight people at three Atlanta-based spas. Six of the victims were Asian.
On Wednesday, the day after the shooting, the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office held a news conference that has since caused backlash toward investigators who spoke.
“Yesterday was a really bad day for him, and this is what he did,” Capt. Jay Baker said.
“He has some issues, potentially sexual addiction,” Sheriff Frank Reynolds added.
Protesters over the weekend in Atlanta denounced the handling of the case, and many said it was clear to them Long had committed a hate crime.
Konda, who is also an attorney, said hate crimes are difficult to prove unless a suspect yells racial epithets or there is clear evidence someone targeted a victim because of their race.
However, Georgia’s new law signed by the state’s governor last year, considers an attack against someone because of sex as a hate crime.READ MORE: Family Clings To Hope That Missing San Francisco Toddler Arianna Fitts Is Still Alive
“It’s hard to know why a person did something, but I think it’s clear to me that the situation in Georgia, that’s a hate crime,” Konda said. “It’s clearly a hate crime and I know that the law enforcement has been saying, ‘Well, we don’t know,’ and making some other excuses for this person.”
It’s a clear example, some believe, of why many in the Asian and Pacific Islander community are hesitant to report anti-Asian incidents or violence or don’t report it at all. Konda said change begins with a sense of support and community for victims, including from law enforcement.
“There is a tendency to maybe internalize things or try to tell yourself, ‘Well, that didn’t really happen,’ or, ‘That didn’t really mean that,'” Konda said. “I think, honestly, a lot of the law enforcement community needs a lot more education. They need to understand the history of this country, the history of anti-Asian violence.”
But Steven Clark, legal analyst and former Santa Clara County deputy district attorney, explained that although most of the victims in the Georgia shootings were Asian, and could be used as evidence of a hate crime, it’s still not enough to prove intent or motive.
“You just don’t assume that every time there’s a crime against a minority it’s a hate crime, you have to look at the intent behind the crime,” Clark said. “The prosecution has to take it a step further and they have to show that this crime was committed due to and because of that person’s ethnicity or race.”
Clark said it may be why investigators haven’t yet answered whether a hate crime will be charged as they continue delving into the suspect’s past and current life.
“Are they a member of any certain groups that go after people because of race, what are they posting online, who are they communicating with,” said Clark. “All of that is very vital in showing what was this person’s intent.”
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