Dallas Police Arrest Suspect in Attack on 3 Korean American Women


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SAN ANTONIO — A man who the police said had expressed anti-Asian sentiment in the past has been arrested in connection with a shooting last week at an Asian-run hair salon in Dallas that left three women wounded.

The man, identified as Jeremy Smith, 36, is accused of firing more than 12 rounds into the salon in an attack that injured three Korean American women, the authorities announced on Tuesday.

The Dallas police chief, Edgardo Garcia, said investigators were still trying to determine whether there was any connection to earlier reports of a red or burgundy vehicle, resembling the red minivan Mr. Smith was driving, seen near two other shootings outside Asian establishments in April and May. “I’m relieved to say that we have made an arrest on the individual who we believe is responsible,” Chief Garcia said at a news conference. “We believe the shooting was intentional.”

He said the police learned during their investigation that Mr. Smith had expressed anti-Asian bigotry on several occasions after he was involved in a car accident two years ago with a man of Asian descent.

An affidavit attached to the arrest warrant said Mr. Smith’s girlfriend had told detectives about the car crash. Since then, she told them, he has had “delusions that the Asian mob is after him or attempting to harm him.” He had been admitted to several mental institutions, according to the affidavit.

Mr. Smith was detained on Monday on unrelated warrants, Chief Garcia said, and after investigators found evidence that he had been at the scene of the salon shooting, he was charged with three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

The F.B.I. and the Justice Department said on Tuesday that they had opened a federal hate crimes investigation into the shooting. “We are in close communication with Dallas police and are partnering together to thoroughly investigate this incident,” Melinda Urbina, an F.B.I. spokeswoman, said in a statement.

Chief Garcia said the police believed that the suspect targeted the victims because of their ethnicity. “It’s an issue of hate. It’s an issue of a hate crime,” Chief Garcia said. “However that manifests itself, I’m not here to say that. I can tell you that our community sees it as a hate crime.”

The arrest comes in the wake of mass shootings, in Buffalo and Southern California, that have also been attributed to racial or nationalist bigotry.

On Saturday, a gunman who officials said had expressed racist ideology killed 10 people at a supermarket in a predominantly Black neighborhood in Buffalo. A day later, a man opened fire on a Taiwanese congregation at a church in Laguna Woods, Calif., killing one person and wounding five others. The authorities there cited political hatred as the likely motive.

From small towns to urban centers, the country has been grappling with a rise in mass shootings. This year there have been at least 201 such incidents, defined as one in which four or more people were injured or killed, according to the Gun Violence Archive, a nonprofit organization that studies gun violence. Last year the group counted 693 mass shootings, with 28 of them claiming four or more lives.

Two earlier shootings in Dallas were initially believed to be random acts of violence. On April 2, an unidentified man opened fire from a vehicle at an Asian-run business in a community known as the Asian Trade District, within the city’s Koreatown. The police said witnesses described seeing a red minivan at the scene of the shooting.

Then on May 10, Chief Garcia said in an earlier news conference, a “burgundy car or minivan” was spotted leaving the scene where a man had fired a weapon in the direction of other Asian businesses. No one was injured in either incident.

The following day, a man, now identified by the police as Mr. Smith, clad all in black and carrying a .22-caliber rifle, walked into Hair World Salon in North Dallas, uttered a few unknown words and fired at least 13 times, striking three women. They were hospitalized but were expected to recover, the authorities said. The suspect fled in a red 2004 Honda Odyssey, the police said.

The first two shootings “were more of a drive-by type,” Chief Garcia said last week. He said the police were still trying to determine if the three incidents were connected.

The shootings have rattled the close-knit Asian American community in Dallas, coming amid a national rise in violence against Asian Americans and evoking the shooting rampage last year at a string of spas in the Atlanta area that left eight people dead, most of them women of Asian heritage.

An organization that collects data on bias crimes against Asian Americans, Stop AAPI Hate, said it had received 10,905 reports of hate-related attacks across the country — ranging from verbal harassment to physical attacks — from March 2020 through the end of last year.

Those fears surfaced at a public meeting between the police and members of the Korean community in Dallas a day before the arrest. At the meeting, reported by The Dallas Morning News, Senior Cpl. Soon Nam introduced one of the victims of the hair salon shooting, who was wearing a sling and a cast and who obscured her face with a mask and sunglasses to protect her identity. “Right now she’s dealing with trauma, there is the grief,” Mr. Nam told the group.

The number of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders has been growing in Dallas, now making up nearly 4 percent of the population, or 48,278 people, according to the U.S. census.

The Dallas Police Department has long had a unit made up of officers who speak languages including Korean, Vietnamese and Tagalog, part of an effort to address crime concerns in Asian neighborhoods. Despite these efforts, police officials said, many crimes against Asian Americans continue to go unreported.