BOSTON (CBS/AP) — Asian American leaders in Massachusetts are calling for a hate crime investigation after a white gunman killed eight people, most of them women of Asian descent, at three Atlanta-area massage parlors Tuesday night. The Massachusetts House Asian Caucus released a statement saying their community is “heartbroken.”
“Although we are not surprised by this senseless violence, it is no less devastating. Violence against Asian Americans has been on the rise for over a year,” the caucus said. “We call for a full investigation by the Atlanta Police to determine if this was a hate crime.”READ MORE: Worcester Police Shoot, Kill Heavily Armed Man Making Bomb Threat
— Asian Caucus (@asiancaucusma) March 17, 2021
The attack sent terror through the Asian American community that’s increasingly been targeted during the coronavirus pandemic. Robert Aaron Long, 21, told police that the attack was not racially motivated and claimed to have a “sex addiction,” with authorities saying he apparently lashed out at what he saw as sources of temptation. Six of the victims were identified as Asian and seven were women.
Gov. Charlie Baker said he was “deeply saddened by the violence.”
“Massachusetts joins the nation in praying for the victims + their families, and in condemning the disturbing trend of violence toward the AAPI community,” he tweeted. “MA will not tolerate violence or hate toward this community or anyone.”
Other Boston leaders also condemned the attack.
City Councilor and mayoral candidate Michelle Wu, who is the daughter of Taiwanese immigrants and the first Asian American president of the Boston City Council, said Boston has not been immune to incidents of racism against Asian Americans.READ MORE: Gisele Bundchen Joining Boston-Based DraftKings As 'Special Advisor'
“It’s heartbreaking & appalling to see the anti-Asian harassment, violence & now mass murder that has accelerated over the past year – part of a long history of racism in America that we all must fight to end,” she said.
— Michelle Wu 吳弭 (@wutrain) March 17, 2021
Fellow mayoral candidate and City Councilor Andrea Campbell said she was “beyond disgusted and saddened” by the violence.
“The growing violence against our Asian American residents in the US and our own City must be addressed and that requires us all to not only acknowledge the root cause which is racism and anti-Asian sentiments, but to then do the hard word of eradicating it,” Campbell tweeted.
Many suspects who commit mass shootings have a history of violence against women. The killings horrified the Asian American community, which saw the shootings as an attack on them, given a recent wave of assaults that coincided with the spread of the coronavirus across the United States. The virus was first identified in China, and then-President Donald Trump and others have used racially charged terms to describe it.
Just this weekend, a “Stop Asian Hate” rally was held in Boston to call out recent attacks on the community. Stop AAPI Hate, a non-profit created to address anti-Asian discrimination during the coronavirus pandemic, received about 2,800 firsthand reports of anti-Asian hate between March 19 and December 31 last year.MORE NEWS: Line Of Thunderstorms Will Bring Heavy Rain, Gusty Winds Wednesday Evening
(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)