Crimes against Asian Americans overlooked in Georgia
Of the eight people killed in the Atlanta area spa shootings, six were of Asian decent. Many called it a hate crime, but it doesn’t show in the state’s numbers.
ATLANTA (CBS46) — A trial is set for April 19 for the man accused in the Atlanta spa shootings. The district attorney plans to seek the death penalty for Robert Aaron Long in Fulton County. He’s already pleaded guilty in Cherokee county to four of the eight murders. Six of the victims were of Asian decent. Many are calling it a hate crime.
A CBS46 Investigation found most law enforcement departments in Georgia aren’t tracking hate crimes. For the ones that are, records show none have reported any hate crimes against Asian Americans in the past three years.
Violent attacks against Asian Americans have surged since the start of the pandemic, more than a year ago. “I spoke to the family and I said, ‘Listen. This is a very tough time,’” said Bjay Pak, the former U.S. Attorney for Georgia, who represents the families of the spa shooting victims.
The spa killings became the deadliest massacre in Georgia since 1999.
CBS46 Investigates reviewed the timeline of events.
- In March, Robert Aaron Long buys a gun in Holy Springs, north of Atlanta. He drives to “Youngs Asian massage parlor” near Acworth.
- 4:54 p.m.: investigators and attorneys say, Long begins shooting. Xiaojie “Emily” Tan; Daoyou Feng; Delaina Yaun, and Paul Michels, all killed. Elcias Hernandez-Ortiz was injured.
- 5:47 p.m.: 30 miles away, more shots fired, this time in Atlanta. Yong Ae Yue; Soon Chung Park; Suncha kim; and Hyun Jung Grant. All four shot and killed at the Gold Spa and Aromatherapy Spa.
“It’s pretty obvious that when you have 6 out of 8 victims that are Asian females, something is definitely not normal,” Pak said.
Fear of racial bias spread. “We felt that pain,” said Cynthia Choi, Stop AAPI Hate co-founder. Community leaders with the Stop AAPI Hate organization, shell-shocked watching the news.
“It was personally very traumatizing to have local law enforcement downplay that this could be motivated by race,” Choi explained.
The spokesperson for the Cherokee Sheriff’s Office – took a different tone during a press conference after the murders. “The suspect has taken responsibility for the shootings,” said Capt. Jay Baker, Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office. Baker was reluctant to call it a “hate crime.”
“He does claim that it was not racially motivated,” Baker said. “Yesterday was a really bad day for him, and this is what he did.”
Some felt the targeted violence, was downplayed. “The way that it was characterized and the way they expressed what was going on, hurt the community even more,” Pak said.
Hate Crime Data Not Tracked
Right now, only an estimated 17% of law enforcement in Georgia track hate crimes, that’s according to the data compiled by the anti-defamation league
“It’s underreported,” Pak said.
According to records from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, in 2019, 2020, and 2021, officers around the state did not report a single hate crime against Asians and Asian Americans.
“This was just another example of how Asian Americans have always been the silent minority and forgotten.,” Pak said.
For so many families, they say the missing statistics mean the story of the bias incidents go largely un-acknowledged, and worse: ignored.
“I think if there’s anything that we should carry forth from this tragedy that occurred on March 16th, is that the AAPI community and our allies should not longer be silent,” Pak said.
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