SoCal Rep. Judy Chu says Atlanta-area spa shootings were a hate crime

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Southern California Rep. Judy Chu says the shootings at three Atlanta-area spas should be categorized as a hate crime.

Chu told Eyewitness News Thursday she feels race played a large factor in the attack that sent terror through the Asian American community, which has increasingly been targeted during the coronavirus pandemic.

Chu, who is the first Chinese American woman to serve in Congress, noted that the first business the suspect targeted was called "Young's Asian Massage."

"If his issue was sexual addiction, he could have gone to any business. He could have gone anywhere, really," Chu said. "But he chose three establishments that were Asian knowing that there would be Asian women inside. And in fact, six of the eight victims were Asian woman."

"It is very clear to me that this is a hate crime," she added.

Police said Thursday that "nothing is off the table" in the investigation of the shootings, including whether the slayings were a hate crime.

A 21-year-old white man, Robert Aaron Long, is charged with murder. Long told police that Tuesday's attack was not racially motivated. He claimed to have a "sex addiction," and authorities said he apparently lashed out at what he saw as sources of temptation.

Chu linked the rise in attacks against Asian Americans with the arrival of the pandemic, and that it "got so much worse" with former President Donald Trump's inflammatory rhetoric around the coronavirus. As president, Trump repeatedly referred to the virus as the "China Virus" and the "Wuhan Virus."

Tuesday's attack was the sixth mass killing this year in the U.S., and the deadliest since the August 2019 Dayton, Ohio, shooting that left nine people dead, according to a database compiled by The Associated Press, USA Today and Northeastern University.

"It's clear that it was targeted," Chu said. "Words have consequences. That's what this rhetoric shows."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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