Lightfoot Calls Atlanta Shootings ‘Hate Crime’ as Police Step Up Patrols

Our Spotlight Politics team weighs in on ‘Chicago Tonight’

Video: Amanda Vinicky, Heather Cherone and Paris Schutz discuss the Atlanta shooting and more in this week’s edition of Spotlight Politics. (Produced by Nick Blumberg)

Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Wednesday that the murder of eight people, including six Asian women, in a spree of shootings at three spas in the Atlanta area constitute a hate crime, and Chicago police officers increased patrols of Asian neighborhoods.

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Former President Donald Trump’s “hateful rhetoric” is partly to blame for the violence, Lightfoot said.

Trump frequently refers to COVID-19 as the “China virus” and has called it the “kung flu.”

Atlanta Police Department Acting Chief Rodney Bryant said his department has not yet determined whether the shooting spree should be classified as a hate crime.

READ: Police Investigate Suspect’s Motive in Atlanta-Area Killings

Cherokee County Sheriff Frank Reynolds said Robert Aaron Long, a 21-year-old white man, may have “frequented these places in the past and may have been lashing out.”

Lightfoot, a former federal prosecutor, said she had no doubt that Long was motivated by racial animus.

“Make no mistake: this was a hate crime,” Lightfoot said. “This was a hate crime against Asian women. And this was a crime that has shown a harsh light on the anti-Asian violence and hateful rhetoric that has been on the rise since COVID-19 became a global pandemic and fanned by the hateful rhetoric of our former president in this country.”

READ: Pritzker: Georgia Mass Shooting ‘An Attack on All of Our Communities’

There is no evidence of a threat against Asian Americans in Chicago, Lightfoot said.

Officers will take “the appropriate precautions to keep our residents safe,” according to a statement from the Chicago Police Department.

“Our district commanders are working with local community leaders, advocates and business owners throughout Chicago's [Asian American and Pacific Islander] community to reinforce our commitment to protecting the lives, rights, and property of all people in Chicago,” according to the statement. “This will include an increase in presence and patrols throughout Chicago neighborhoods with significant [Asian American and Pacific Islander] populations.”

Lightfoot vowed to protect Chicago’s Asian American communities.

“We have to be better than this in our city, in our state and our country,” Lightfoot said.

Contact Heather Cherone: @HeatherCherone | (773) 569-1863 | [email protected]

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