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Georgia sheriff’s spokesman replaced on spa shootings case

  • ALYSSA POINTER/ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION VIA ASSOCIATED PRESS
                                Captain Jay Baker, of the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office, spoke about the arrest of Robert Aaron Long during a press conference at the Atlanta Police Department headquarters in Atlanta, Wednesday. Long is accused of killing multiple people, most of whom were of Asian descent, at massage parlors in the Atlanta area.

    ALYSSA POINTER/ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION VIA ASSOCIATED PRESS

    Captain Jay Baker, of the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office, spoke about the arrest of Robert Aaron Long during a press conference at the Atlanta Police Department headquarters in Atlanta, Wednesday. Long is accused of killing multiple people, most of whom were of Asian descent, at massage parlors in the Atlanta area.

ATLANTA >> The Latest on the shootings at three Atlanta-area massage parlors where eight people were killed (all times local):

7:05 p.m.

A Georgia sheriff’s office captain has been replaced as the spokesman in the investigation into the recent massage parlor slayings after the spokesman drew widespread outrage for saying the suspect in the killings had had a “really bad day.”

Cherokee County Communications Director Erika Neldner announced in a statement today that she will be handling media inquiries related to Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office’s investigation into Tuesday’s slayings.

The statement did not give details about the status of Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Capt. Jay Baker, who was criticized for saying during a news conference Wednesday that the 21-year-old suspect had had “a really bad day” and “this is what he did.”

Authorities have charged Robert Aaron Long with eight counts of murder for the slayings, four of which occurred at a massage parlor in Cherokee County. Six of the victims were women of Asian descent.

Earlier today, Sheriff Frank Reynolds issued a statement acknowledging that some of Baker’s comments stirred “much debate and anger” and said the agency regrets any “heartache” caused by his words.

Some activists had called for Baker to be fired over both his comments and the discovery of a 2020 Facebook post that Baker appeared to have written to promote a T-shirt with racist language about China and the coronavirus. Neither Reynolds nor Baker has commented on the post, which was taken down Wednesday night.

4:25 pm.

Several Georgia Democratic lawmakers of Asian descent held a press conference at the state Capitol to denounce crimes against members of the Asian community, including the recent killings at Atlanta-area massage parlors.

State Rep. Sam Park said Asian Americans over the past year have experienced a “surge” in attacks due to “racist political rhetoric and scapegoating.”

“Now is the time for all of us to come together, unequivocally condemn racism and misogyny, and take meaningful action to protect the vulnerable and prevent these horrific mass shootings from continuing to take place in our country,” Park said today.

State Sen. Michelle Au had warned of a rise in attacks on Asian Americans in a speech on the state Senate floor Monday, a day before the spa shootings killed eight people, including six women of Asian descent.

Today, Au called for enhanced gun safety legislation, better data collection about crimes against minority communities and increased awareness of discrimination against women and people of Asian descent.

“These problems we’re facing right now are not new,” Au said, referring to misogyny, anti-Asian discrimination and gun violence. “What can be new is how we deal with it in this moment, and I want to implore our community and our fellow legislators to not let this moment go by.”

3:55 p.m.

A Georgia sheriff today expressed regret after there was widespread outrage over comments his spokesman made a day earlier, including a statement that the 21-year-old man accused of killing eight people in Atlanta-area massage parlors had had a “bad day.”

Authorities have charged Robert Aaron Long with eight counts of 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. Police have said they are still working to determine a motive. But Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Capt. Jay Baker drew criticism for saying during a news conference Wednesday that Long had had “a really bad day” and “this is what he did.”

Sheriff Frank Reynolds released a statement today acknowledging that some of Baker’s comments stirred “much debate and anger” and said the agency regrets any “heartache” caused by his words.

“In as much as his words were taken or construed as insensitive or inappropriate, they were not intended to disrespect any of the victims, the gravity of this tragedy or express empathy or sympathy for the suspect,” Reynolds said in the statement, adding that Baker “had a difficult task before him, and this was one of the hardest in his 28 years in law enforcement.”

The sheriff’s statement did not address a 2020 Facebook post that appeared to have been written by Baker promoting a T-shirt with racist language about China and the coronavirus. Baker has not commented on the post, which was taken down Wednesday.

3:25 p.m.

Atlanta police say “nothing is off the table” in their investigation into the recent massage parlor slayings, including whether the killings were a hate crime.

Atlanta Police Deputy Chief Charles Hampton Jr. said during a news conference today that investigators believe 21-year-old Robert Aaron Long had visited the two Atlanta massage parlors where four women of Asian descent were killed.

“Our investigation is looking at everything so nothing is off the table for our investigation,” Hampton said.

Four other victims were killed at a spa in suburban Cherokee County shortly before the Atlanta attacks.

2:35 p.m.

The White House says President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris plan to meet with Asian American community leaders in Georgia in the wake of this week’s deadly shootings at three Atlanta-area massage parlors.

The pair were already scheduled to travel Friday to Atlanta to tout the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill, but the trip took on new meaning after the shootings.

The visit also comes amid intense debate over voter rights in Georgia.

Authorities have charged 21-year-old Robert Aaron Long with murder in the deaths of eight people, six of them women of Asian descent.

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