BY: JACK ARNHOLZ, ABC NEWS
(WASHINGTON) — Rep. Judy Chu, D-Calif., said she “strongly” believes that Atlanta-area spa shootings were hate crimes on ABC’s “This Week” Sunday.
“I do strongly believe that this is a hate crime. This is a 21-year-old white male who chose, as his first victim, a business that was called Young’s Asian Massage. Then he drove for 27 miles to another spot where he hit two more Asian spas. If his only problem was sex addiction, then he could have had his choice in those 27 miles of any place that he could have gone to,” Chu told “This Week” co-anchor Martha Raddatz.
“But, no, he specifically went to those Asian spas, where it was clear in all three places there would be many Asian women. And indeed, those were the majority of those that he shot and killed,” she added.
Eight people — six of whom were women of Asian descent — were killed after a shooter opened fire at three different spas in the Atlanta area Tuesday evening. The man suspected of killing the victims admitted to the murders and blamed his “addiction to sex” as the motive, according to authorities Wednesday. He has since been charged with eight counts of murder.
Tuesday’s shootings come amid a surge in assaults on the nation’s Asian American community. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been nearly 3,800 anti-Asian hate incidents reported in the U.S., according to data from the Stop AAPI Hate coalition. In the first two months of 2021, there were over 500 incidents reported.
Although authorities have said that they have not found concrete evidence that the spas and victims were targeted because of their ethnicity, Raddatz asked Chu — who also serves as the chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus — if she believed the shootings should be prosecuted as a hate crime.
“The legal bar is high because they have to find somebody who heard him say that there was an anti-Asian slur expressed at the time. But I would say, look, these were places where people spoke another language. They may not have heard him — they may be dead,” Chu said.
“But in my mind and in the minds of many, this is an anti-Asian hate crime,” the congresswoman added.
Chu testified before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties along prominent other Asian American lawmakers, scholars and advocates Thursday about the rise in violence and discrimination against Asian Americans. During her testimony, Chu called for a national day to speak out against Asian hate on March 26.
When Raddatz asked what the government could do to confront the rise in violence towards Asian Americans, Chu said the work starts with undoing rhetoric espoused by former President Donald Trump.
“We have been working for a year to try to get some action done against these anti-Asian hate crimes. But President Trump doubled down with his rhetoric about the ‘China virus’ and the ‘Wuhan virus’ and even ‘Kung Flu,"” she said.
“It wasn’t until President Biden came and issued that executive memorandum saying that the Asian community should be able to meet with the Department of Justice to provide solutions to these anti-Asian hate crimes that we were able to actually move forward. And in fact, we had that meeting with the Department of Justice last week,” Chu added.
The congresswoman also identified two pieces of legislation — the NO HATE Act and the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act – to confront the rise in anti-Asian violence.
“(The COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act) would direct the Department of Justice to have somebody appointed to track these crimes and to make sure that they are going through the system and being prosecuted, and providing guidelines on these types of hate crimes, in terms of their prosecution,” Chu told Raddatz.
“The NO HATE Act would address our very flawed hate crimes system in this country … (and) would provide resources for law enforcement to be able to put such a program together, and actually get training on how they deal with hate crimes, and provide oversight that would be done by the U.S. attorney general, who would report to Congress.”
Both bills have been introduced in Congress, but have yet to pass through committee.
ABC News’ Catherine Thorbecke contributed to this report.
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