Dallas salon shooting is hate crime, suspect had 'panic attacks' around Asian people, police say

  • In US
  • 2022-05-17 19:54:42Z
  • By NBC News

Police in Dallas announced the arrest of a suspect Tuesday in connection with a shooting at a Dallas hair salon last week that injured three women of Korean descent.

Jeremy Theron Smith, 36, was taken into police custody Monday and later charged with three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

Dallas Police Chief Eddie Garcia said the investigation into the shooting is ongoing, but confirmed it is being investigated as a hate crime.

"Right now it's an issue of hate - it's a hate crime," Garcia said. "However that manifests itself, I'm not here to say that; I can tell you that I know our community sees it as a hate crime, I see it as a hate crime and so do our men and women."

Garcia said police identified Smith through surveillance footage and by tracking a red Honda Odyssey he allegedly drove to and from the Hair World Salon where the women were shot.

Garcia said that Smith had been involved in a car crash with an Asian man several years ago and has since suffered "panic attacks and delusions when he is around anyone of Asian descent."

He had also been fired from a job after verbally attacking a boss of Asian descent, his arresting documents said.

Because of those delusions Smith had been admitted to several mental health facilities, the arresting document said.

Smith said he was in the area of Royal Lane the day of the Hair World Salon shooting "looking for a business that could replace a broken pane of glass from a garage door," the arrest warrant said.

A search warrant executed on his vehicle after his arrest produced a handgun, gun magazine and ammo, Garcia said

Smith is being held in Dallas County jail on three charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, jail records show. It's not clear if Smith has a lawyer.

The arrest came not long after the FBI announced it had opened a federal hate crime investigation into the shooting at the Hair World Salon.

The FBI's Dallas field office said in a statement that it had opened the hate-related probe alongside the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Texas and the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice.

The DOJ confirmed an investigation had been opened the probe but did not say exactly when.

The FBI field office said it was also "in close communication with Dallas Police and are partnering together to thoroughly investigate this incident."

Dallas Police Chief Eddie Garcia suggested last week that the shooting at the Dallas hair salon could be part of a string of similar incidents targeting Asian businesses, an apparent reversal after initially saying police were confident "hate was not a motivating factor."

Garcia said a similar vehicle had been used in three recent shootings, including Wednesday's attack, but on Tuesday he said there have been no arrests in those cases and the investigations are ongoing

"More work or investigation needs to be done before Smith can or will be charged in those cases," Garcia said.

The shooting, which unfolded in an area called the Asian Trade District, known as the city's Koreatown, saw a gunman enter the Hair World Salon at around 2:20 p.m. Wednesday and open fire, striking the three women.

The shooter then fled in a maroon minivan similar to those described in previous attacks targeting Asian American businesses, according to police.

At least 13 shots were fired as seven casings were found inside the business and six outside the main door, according to the arresting document.

Salon owner Chang Hye Jin, 44, who was among those injured, told NBC News she believed the shooting was a hate crime from the start.

"It especially feels targeted because he didn't even demand money," she said. "He just came in to shoot people."

She added that the salon's front door was usually locked and opened each time a customer visited, but said it had been left open on Wednesday because it was such a busy day.

The shooting unfolded as the U.S. continues to grapple with a surge in hate crime against people of Asian ancestry. It came just over a year after a gunman in Georgia killed eight women, with six being of Asian descent, in attacks at three different spas in the Atlanta area.

Speaking during a community safety meeting at the Korean Cultural Center of Dallas on Monday night, Garcia said detectives were making progress in the investigation into possible hate-motivated shootings targeting Asian-owned businesses, according to NBC San Diego.

"We feel very confident that we're moving in the right direction," he said.


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