Sheriff’s Office Is Very Sorry for Saying Atlanta Shooter ‘Had a Bad Day’March 18, 2021
A day after a Cherokee County official said the man who killed eight people across Atlanta on Tuesday was having “a bad day,” his employers stepped up to apologize on his behalf.
County Sheriff Frank Reynolds released a short statement addressing his colleague’s controversial remarks, which stirred national condemnation for an entire news cycle.
"Comments made by Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office Captain Jay Baker have become the subject of much debate and anger,” Reynolds wrote in a statement Thursday. “In as much as his words were taken or construed as insensitive or inappropriate, they were not intended to disrespect any of the victims, the gravity of this tragedy, or express empathy or sympathy for the suspect.”
Baker, the director of communications for the office, had Asian community leaders, social justice groups, social media users, and politicians in uproar after he seemingly justified 21-year-old Robert Aaron Long’s horrific actions by calling it the result of a “bad day.”
“He was pretty much fed up, and kind of at [the] end of his rope, and yesterday was a really bad day for him and this is what he did,” Baker said during the Wednesday news conference.
Critics of Baker’s remarks highlighted the disparity in how American police treat violent white perpetrators in the immediate aftermath of national tragedies. Hours after the news conference, several news outlets reported that a Facebook account belonging to Baker had shared posts in April 2020 encouraging people to buy T-shirts declaring that the COVID-19 pandemic was an “imported virus from Chy-na.”
“Love my shirt,” the caption said, according to news outlets. “Get yours while they last.”
“I have known and served with Captain Baker for many years,” Reynolds’ Thursday statement said. “His personal ties to the Asian community and his unwavering support and commitment to the citizens of Cherokee County are well known to many. On behalf of the dedicated women and men of the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office, we regret any heartache Captain Baker’s words may have caused.”
During a press conference led by the Atlanta Police Department on Thursday, officials avoided commenting on Baker’s remarks and the response to them.
“I don’t have a position,” APD Deputy Chief Charles Hampton told reporters. “I’m only going to comment on our investigation. We’re not prepared to talk a lot about what has been said because again we’re not trying to try the case in public.”
Updates on local law enforcement’s ongoing investigation into Tuesday’s shooting were light, save for one new detail.
“I can say that he had frequented both of those locations, yes,” Hampton said of the shooter, though officials wouldn’t confirm if the shooter had visited the massage parlors as a client. He said he couldn’t conclude yet whether the victims were specifically targeted in the attacks.
The shooter’s killing spree targeted three massage parlors in the area in the space of an hour on Tuesday, starting at 5 p.m. He allegedly killed eight people, including seven women between the ages of 33 and 49, and one man. Six of the women who were killed were of Asian descent. Long was detained by police after a brief chase. The shooter later said he suffers from sex addition and that he’d targeted the massage parlors because he associated them with “temptation.”
On Wednesday he was charged with eight counts of murder and one count of assault. Atlanta police said Wednesday they don’t think race played a role in the shooter’s motives. When asked whether the sheriff’s office would treat the shootings as hate crimes, Hampton didn’t provide any comment on the agency’s findings and said that they wouldn’t have an update until families for all of the victims have been notified of the crime.