A Georgia sheriff’s captain has faced widespread criticism for appearing to characterise the actions of Robert Aaron Long, the 21-year-old charged with killing eight people in Atlanta, six of them women of Asian descent, as “having a really bad day”.
Speaking at a news conference on Wednesday, Capt Jay Baker of the Cherokee county sheriff’s office said investigators had interviewed Long that morning.
“They got that impression that yes, he understood the gravity of it. 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.
His remarks with were met with swift condemnation on Twitter from many users who saw them as minimizing Long’s brutal attacks.
The backlash against Baker compounded on Wednesday evening, when several news outlets reported that he had previously shared images on Facebook of T-shirts that contained a racist slogan about China and the coronavirus.
BuzzFeed News reported that in 2020, Baker shared an image of T-shirt with a logo that parodied Corona beer and read “Covid 19: imported virus from Chy-na”.
BuzzFeed reported that the post was reportedly hidden after the outlet inquired about it.
The Daily Beast reported that the posts on Baker’s Facebook account were first noticed by a Twitter user, and that the T-shirts appeared to have been made by a company that was owned by a former deputy sheriff for Cherokee county.
Meanwhile, statements from police that Long had declared Tuesday’s attack was not racially motivated spurred further outrage and widespread skepticism. Police say Long claimed to have a “sex addiction,” and authorities have said that he apparently lashed out at what he saw as sources of “temptation”.
Many on Twitter pointed out that the sexualization of Asian women and racism are impossible to disentangle.
The state representative Bee Nguyen, the first Vietnamese American to serve in the Georgia house of representatives and a frequent advocate for women and communities of color, said that the shooting appeared to be at the “intersection of gender-based violence, misogyny and xenophobia”.
Asian American communities across the country have been on heightened alert since the attack, which comes amid a surge in anti-Asian violence during the past year. Donald Trump repeatedly demonized China over the coronavirus outbreak.
Long faces eight counts of murder and one count of assault. The Cherokee county sheriff’s office has so far revealed the identities of the four victims killed, including 33-year-old Delaina Ashley Yaun, 54-year-old Paul Andre Michels, 49-year-old Xiaojie Yan, and 44-year-old Daoyou Feng.