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The Georgia sheriff’s captain who came under fire this week for saying the man suspected of killing eight people, including six Asian women, at Atlanta area massage parlors had a “really bad day,” also posted an anti-Asian message on Facebook last year.
Cherokee County Sheriff’s Capt. Jay Baker shared an image on Facebook in April 2020 of a T-shirt reading “Covid 19 IMPORTED VIRUS FROM CHY-NA,” according to BuzzFeed News.
Under the now-removed post, Baker had written “Love my shirt” and “Get yours while they last,” Buzzfeed reported.
Baker, who serves as the communications director for the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office, came under criticism Wednesday while discussing the possible motive of Robert Aaron Long, the 21-year-old man accused of fatally shooting eight people at three different massage parlors.
Six of the victims were Asian women, authorities said.
Baker said Long told them he considered himself to have a sex addiction and added that he had been a past customer at the massage parlors he targeted.
“It’s a temptation for him that he wanted to eliminate. He was pretty much fed up and kind of at the end of his rope, and yesterday was a really bad day for him, and this is what he did,” Baker said at a press briefing according to the New York Post.
Critics have accused Baker of being insensitive to the victims. He did not immediately respond to Oxygen.com’s request for comment on Thursday.
Long is accused of killing four people at Youngs Asian Massage Parlor in Acworth around 5 p.m. Tuesday before opening fire at two more local massage parlors less than an hour later that claimed four more lives.
Cherokee Sheriff Frank Reynolds said Long has denied that there was a racial component to the slayings.
“During his interview, he gave no indicators that this was racially motivated,” Reynolds said Wednesday according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “We asked him that specifically and the answer was no.”
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms cautioned that she was taking that explanation with a "grain of salt," during an interview with CNN Wednesday.
"This is a man who murdered eight people in cold blood," she said. "It is very difficult to ignore that the Asian community has once again been targeted and it's happening all over the country."
The Atlanta Police Department has said investigators are still trying to determine the motive in the shootings and have not reached any formal conclusions.
“Beyond processing evidence from the scenes, investigators are taking a hard look at what motivated the shooter,” police said in a statement obtained by NBC News. “Our investigation is far from over and we have not ruled anything out.”
A wave of crime against Asian Americans has gained momentum across the United States over the last year. According to a new study conducted by Stop AAPI (Asian American and Pacific Islander) Hate, Asian-Americans were targeted in around 3,800 hate incidents in the past year alone, an increase of about 25 percent from the previous year. About 68% of the victims in the past year were women.
“There is an intersectional dynamic going on that others may perceive both Asians and women and Asian women as easier targets,” Russell Jeung, professor of Asian American studies at San Francisco State University told NBC News.
Long is facing eight counts of murder and one count of aggravated assault for Tuesday’s shooting spree.
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