A sheriff’s deputy in Georgia who has been a main conduit for information about the deadly rampage at three Atlanta-area massage businesses faced criticism on Wednesday for saying that Tuesday “was a really bad day” for the suspect, and for anti-Asian Facebook posts that he made last year.
At a news conference, the deputy, Capt. Jay Baker, the spokesman for the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office, discussed the frame of mind of the man charged with eight counts of murder in Tuesday’s shootings. He said that the suspect, Robert Aaron Long, 21, of Woodstock, Ga., had understood the gravity of his actions when he was interviewed by investigators on Wednesday morning.
“He was pretty much fed up and had been kind of at the end of his rope,” Captain Baker said. “Yesterday was a really bad day for him, and this is what he did.”
The comments were widely panned on social media, with critics characterizing them as callous and pointing to Facebook posts from March 30 and April 2 of last year by Captain Baker, in which he promoted sales of an anti-Asian T-shirt. The shirts, echoing the rhetoric of President Donald J. Trump, referred to the coronavirus as an “imported virus from Chy-na.”
“Place your order while they last,” Captain Baker wrote at the time in one of the posts. He did not respond to requests for comment on Wednesday and Thursday.
The news outlets Buzzfeed and The Daily Beast both published articles about the captain’s comments and Facebook posts on Wednesday, and the actress Arden Cho and others condemned them on social media.
“Cop says it’s not a hate crime, it’s him just having a bad day,” Ms. Cho wrote on Twitter. “Oh ok.. NO. It’s because you’re a racist also Jay Baker.”
On Thursday, the George Alliance for Social Justice, a nonprofit group, demanded that Captain Baker be removed from his job and urged others to call for his dismissal. “These racist social media posts that have now been shared have been on his page for almost a year,” the group wrote on Facebook, “and it took a mass shooting to bring them to light.”