Investigators were looking into whether the shooter targeted the Asian American community when he opened fire at three different spas Tuesday afternoon. Six of those killed were Asian American.
South Korea's Foreign Ministry said in a statement Wednesday that its diplomats in Atlanta have confirmed from police that four of the victims who died were women of Korean descent.
A 21-year-old identified as Robert Aaron Long is in custody.
ORIGINAL STORY: Shootings at 3 Georgia spas leave 8 dead, many women of Asian descent; Man in custody
In an update later Wednesday morning, authorities said Long admitted to the killings and blamed his "addiction to sex" as the motive. Long also allegedly told investigators the crimes were not racially motivated, though many of the victims were women of Asian descent.
Still, people, including here in Houston, are standing in solidarity with the Asian community.
HPD Chief Art Acevedo wrote in a tweet, "To our Asian community, @houstonpolice is closely monitoring our threat environment, and currently there are no specific threats. We all need to combat the scourge of violence."
To our Asian community, @houstonpolice is closely monitoring our threat environment, and currently there are no specific threats. We all need to combat the scourge of violence. https://t.co/aYktSfkIPC— Chief Art Acevedo (@ArtAcevedo) March 17, 2021
Overnight, the hashtag Stop Asian Hate was trending number one on Twitter as people responded to the violence.
NAACP President and CEO, Derrick Johnson, said in a statement:
"Our hearts are shattered tonight. The horrifying shooting that took place in Atlanta this evening is a disgusting and disturbing example of how the spread of domestic terrorism has been allowed to torment communities. These acts are the visible manifestation of hateful words birthing hateful acts. An attack on one is an attack on all. We condemn this in the strongest possible terms."
Dr. Bernice King, daughter of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, said, "My heart goes out to the families and communities of the eight people murdered at metro-Atlanta spas. I am deeply saddened that we live in a nation and world permeated by hate and violence. I stand with Asian members of our World House, who are a part of our global human family."
My heart goes out to the families and communities of the eight people murdered at metro-Atlanta spas. I am deeply saddened that we live in a nation and world permeated by hate and violence. I stand with Asian members of our World House, who are a part of our global human family.— Be A King (@BerniceKing) March 17, 2021
NBA player Jeremy Lin, who used to play for the Houston Rockets, called the violence "heartbreaking.... To my Asian American family, please take time to grieve but know you're loved, seen and IMPORTANT." Recently, Lin shared that he was the target of racism when he said someone called him "coronavirus" while he played in the NBA's minor league, the G-League.
READ: Basketball star Jeremy Lin says he was called 'coronavirus' on court
This is sooo heartbreaking...praying for our world. To my Asian American family, please take time to grieve but know youre loved, seen and IMPORTANT. We have to keep standing up, speaking out, rallying together and fighting for change. We cannot lose hope!! ❤️#StopAsianHate #NOW https://t.co/Xm4ojbJALw— Jeremy Lin (@JLin7) March 17, 2021
The nonprofit social organization Stop AAPI (Asian American Pacific Islander) Hate, reported that from March 2020 to February 2021, it received 3,795 reports of anti-Asian hate incidents.
You can read Stop AAPI Hate's report here.
It found that verbal harassment makes up 68% of hate incidents, physical assaults make up 11% and that women are 2.3 times more likely to report hate incidents.
Forty-five percent of reports originated in California, making it the first in the nation for hate incident reports, Stop AAPI Hate said.
It released a statement on the Atlanta area shootings on Tuesday:
"The reported shootings of multiple Asian American women today in Atlanta is an unspeakable tragedy - for the families of the victims first and foremost, but also for the Asian American community, which has been reeling from high levels of racist attacks over the course of the past year. Few details about these shootings have been released, including whether or not they were motivated by hate.
This latest attack will only exacerbate the fear and pain that the Asian American community continues to endure. There has been a documented pattern of recent attacks against our community, as we have received nearly 3,800 reports of hate incidents across the country since March 2020. Not enough has been done to protect Asian Americans from heightened levels of hate, discrimination and violence. Concrete action must be taken now. Anything else is unacceptable.
As further details of this tragedy unfold, our hearts go out to the loved ones of the victims and to the Asian American community in Atlanta."
The group said hate against Asian American Pacific Islander communities has risen during the COVID-19 pandemic. Stop AAPI Hate said in a report last July that emerging trends showed the hate towards Asians was tied to the nature and extent of COVID-19 discrimination because of where the coronavirus originated.
In that same July 2020 report, it said the most common types of discrimination reported in Texas were verbal harassment (63%) and shunning (24%). Physical assaults constituted 22% of reported incidents, more than twice the national rate of 9%.
President Biden has spoken on the issue. Shortly after taking office, he signed a memorandum aimed at condemning and combating racism, xenophobia and intolerance against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the United States.
"The Federal Government must recognize that it has played a role in furthering these xenophobic sentiments through the actions of political leaders, including references to the COVID-19 pandemic by the geographic location of its origin. Such statements have stoked unfounded fears and perpetuated stigma about Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and have contributed to increasing rates of bullying, harassment, and hate crimes against AAPI persons," the memo reads in part.
Biden also pointed out the role of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in helping the country through the pandemic, saying that an estimated "2 million Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have served on the front lines of this crisis as healthcare providers, as first responders, and in other essential roles."
Stop AAPI Hate has tips on its website for how people can stand with the Asian community and help combat violence.
Along with the ability to report an incident in 11 languages on its website, the group suggests:
- Share safety tips with friends and family on what to do if you encounter or witness hate
- Be informed about what is happening and why
- Be civically engaged in your local community and see how you can advocate for expanded civil rights protections
- See if your state has public accommodation laws that protect people from discrimination in businesses
- Support local Asian-owned businesses
WATCH: ABC13's 'COVID-19 and our Asian Community' town hall
The state of Texas does not have a public accommodation law to protect individuals from discrimination based on race, color or national origin.
Follow this link to learn how to report a civil rights violation.
SEE ALSO: Asiatown took hit over COVID-19 rumors, but business is back
The Associated Press contributed to this report.