The sheriff investigating a spate of shootings at three Atlanta-area massage parlors Wednesday is “not ruling out” a racist motivation behind the attacks.
A white gunman, Robert Aaron Long, was charged with killing eight people, six of whom were identified as Asian and seven as women.
Cherokee County Sheriff Frank Reynolds confirmed to CNBC’s “The News with Shepard Smith” that although Long did not mention race in his taped confession, investigators cannot rule it out as a potential motivation.
“He [Long] does make a full confession, and during that interview I did not hear anything about race … other than us asking the question, although, we’re not going to rule that out,” Reynolds said during a Wednesday evening interview. “Obviously, we’re going to continue this investigation and go off of every lead and every possible angle that we can, but it’s still a little early to tell.”
Reynolds previously told reporters that it was too early to say if the killings were racially motivated — “but the indicators right now are it may not be.”
Host Shepard Smith asked Reynolds about reports the suspect made anti-Asian statements at the targeted massage parlors.
“I don’t know that it’s true,” said Reynolds. “I’ve heard that from social media and media, but I’ve not heard that from our investigators.”
President Joe Biden expressed his condolences to the Asian American community after the shootings in Atlanta. He said he’s been briefed by top law enforcement officials and is awaiting information on the investigation.
“Whatever the motivation here, I know Asian Americans are in very — they are very concerned, because as you know, I have been speaking about the brutality against Asian Americans, and it’s troubling,” Biden said.
Long told police that the shootings were motivated by what he claimed was a “sex addiction.”
“He apparently has an issue, what he considers a sex addiction, and sees these locations as something that allows him to go to these places, and it’s a temptation for him that he wanted to eliminate,” Cherokee County Sheriff’s Capt. Jay Baker previously told reporters.
Baker went on to make controversial comments about the assailant, saying the suspect was “having a really bad day, and this is what he did.”
Reynolds told CNBC Wednesday that he regretted Baker’s comments.
“He’s a great asset to our agency, he’s expressed his concern about his choice of words,” Reynolds said. “He didn’t mean to use that in the context that it came across. I think he was quoting the suspect from the interview, that he was having a bad day, not that we think he was having a bad day. It was a horrific event, in no way did we minimize or try to minimize the severity of this.”