ATLANTA, GA. – Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office Spokesperson Capt. Jay Baker has spit in the face of Georgia’s Asian-American community. We’ve read this book before, and the plotline is predictable. A White suspect murders several people of color. White police officers apprehend the white suspect without a shot fired or tazer discharged.
During a joint news conference with the Atlanta Police Department, Baker said, “yesterday was a really bad day for him and this is what he did.” The comments came after a White gunman killed eight people outside of Asian-American businesses Tuesday night. We again see that a White suspect is so often given the gentle embrace of law enforcement even in the aftermath of the brutal murder of people of color.
In the hours since this press conference, Twitter users have uncovered racist social media posts by the Cherokee County Sheriff Captain. Just last year, Baker shared posts on Facebook encouraging his friends to buy “COVID-19, Imported from Chy-Na” shirts.
While speaking with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said that she didn’t think the sentiment expressed by Baker was meant to disregard the victims. Lance Bottoms said, “that was not the sentiment that I felt in our conversations. I know that there was sympathy and empathy towards the victims and their families. Perhaps he could have said it better with the cameras there.” It is not clear that Mayor Lance Bottoms was aware of the sheriff’s racist social media posts at the time of her interview.
Asian American group claps back
In a statement, Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Atlanta said, “while the details of the shootings are still emerging, the broader context cannot be ignored. The shootings happened under the trauma of increasing violence against Asian Americans nationwide, fueled by white supremacy and systemic racism.”
We have to ask ourselves the question, why would Baker not strongly condemn the suspect in front of the cameras? A source from Cherokee County’s activist scene who spoke on background said “there’s always (been) the undercurrent that this (Cherokee County) is a good ol’ boy society. There’s lots of “back the blue.” They continued, saying “police here are majority white, probably over weaponized for the lift they actually have.”
Black Wall Street Times has reached out to Capt. Jay Baker to give him an opportunity to explain his statement. We have not received a response at time of publishing.
Suspect’s actions speak for themselves
The suspect, Robert Aaron Long (21), of Woodstock, legally purchased the gun used in the murders the day of the attacks; highlighting a danger gun safety activists have long warned of. Allison Calhoun, a volunteer with the Georgia chapter of Moms Demand Action, said, “these devastating shootings have come amidst a rising tide of violence against the AAPI community and women in particular, and we must do more to combat gun violence, hate, racism, and misogyny.”
Long claimed that the brutal killing spree was motivated by his sexual addiction and not the race of his victims. But it’s unclear how many people buy that. Six of the eight victims were Asian American women or of Asian descent.
AAAJ-A Executive Director Stephanie Cho called for allies to stand with the AAPI community. She said, “We’re calling on our allies across communities of color to stand with us in grief and solidarity against racist violence in all its forms. When our most vulnerable community members are targeted, we all need to band together.”
Allies softly condemn Capt. Baker’s statement.
Allies from Cherokee County are voicing their disappointment with the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Department. Cherokee County Democrats Communications Director Miranda Wicker said the organization was “disheartened to hear that the narrative in today’s press conferences leaned heavily on the shooter’s background and story instead of on the lives of the victims he killed in his senseless act of gun violence.” The organization said they “stand with the AAPI community and wish that more of today’s time had been spent reassuring our AAPI brothers and sisters that crimes of this nature will not be tolerated by law enforcement in Cherokee County.”
The Georgia General Assembly has made national headlines recently as they’ve worked to enshrine a new era of Jim Crow laws into their state’s charter. Activists are calling for the assembly to stop their assault on civil rights and address the issues facing Georgians every day. Calhoun highlighted positive efforts that are being made in the state House; “Asian-American representatives in our legislature, like Rep. Bee Nguyen and Sen. Michelle Au, have led the charge for common-sense gun safety laws in Georgia that would repeal ‘Stand Your Ground.’ They also want to make sure that every gun sale goes through a background check, and we’re proud to stand with them in our shared fight to make Georgia safer for all of us.”
This is a developing story.