Atlanta-area spa shootings: Feds assessing whether shootings were hate crimes

In a statement, U.S. Attorney Kurt R. Erskine and Chris Hacker, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta said federal agencies are independently assessing whether three recent shootings at Atlanta-area businesses involved a federal hate crime and called for people to report discrimanatory incidents.

Federal law enforcement, Friday, condemed bigotry, racism and hatred against the Asian American Pacific Islander Communty.

"We are deeply troubled by the acts of violence and harassment against our Asian American neighbors, family, and friends in this district," said Erskine.  "We will not tolerate discrimination or criminal acts against people based on their real or perceived race or ethnicity and will continue to examine all evidence related to the shooter’s motivation in order to determine whether these horrific murders violated federal hate crime laws.  Federal law enforcement in this district is committed to the safety of the members of our AAPI community and we urge the public to report potential racial discrimination and hate crimes to law enforcement so we can address these illegal acts."

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"FBI Atlanta and The U.S. Attorney's Office have reached out to Atlanta's AAPI community, among other groups who have been targeted historically because of their race, to assure them they have an ally with law enforcement agencies and that individuals affected know their rights," said Hacker. "Investigating civil rights/hate crimes is among the FBI's highest priorities. FBI Atlanta is dedicated to addressing every single allegation, and we strongly encourage anyone who believes their civil rights were violated to report it, so that we can determine whether a crime occurred."

The statement was issued more than a week after a 21-year-old suspect was accused of and allegedly confessed to killing eight people in three different Asian-owned businesses in Cherokee County and Atlanta. 

Police in Cherokee County said the suspect told investigators he was motivated to eliminated temptations caused by his alleged sex addiction. Activists say the context of the shootings amid a rise in crimes against Asian Americans can't be ignored. 

Officials with the FBI and Department of Justice said experienced civil rights prosecutors and agents are examining all evidence of the shooters' motivation.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI met with leaders of the AAPI community, including a "listening session" in Doraville with AAPI representatives. 

"Our outreach efforts will continue while reinforcing the message that we all stand together with the AAPI community to aggressively address incidents of anti-Asian bias in our district," said Erskine.

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