A Facebook page appearing to belong to a Georgia sheriff’s office spokesman who is helping to investigate the recent massage parlour slayings promoted a T-shirt with racist language about China and the coronavirus last year.
“Place your order while they last,” the March 2020 Facebook post said, along with a smiley face emoji.
The Facebook account, belonging to a “Jay Baker,” features numerous photos of Cherokee County sheriff’s Capt. Jay Baker going back months, including one in which he is in uniform outside the sheriff’s office. The account was deleted Wednesday night.
The discovery of the Facebook post comes amid concerns from some Asian Americans that authorities are not treating the killings, which mainly targeted women of Asian descent, as hate crimes.
Baker also came under criticism for saying Wednesday that the 21-year-old man accused of carrying out the massacres had had a “bad day.”
“He was pretty much fed up and kind of end of his rope and yesterday was a really bad day for him and this is what he did,” Baker said during a news conference.
Asian American activists said Baker’s comments and the Facebook post undermine public confidence that investigators are adequately addressing Tuesday’s atrocity.
“To see this post is both disturbing and outrageous. It speaks to the structural racism that we’re all up against,” said Vincent Pan, co-executive director of Chinese for Affirmative Action, a civil rights organization working to address anti-Asian hate crimes. “Coupled with the comments coming out of the news conference, it does not give community members confidence that our experiences and the pain and the suffering that we’re feeling are being taken seriously, at least by this particular person.”
Before the Facebook page was taken down, dozens of people Wednesday evening decried the shirt’s racist language.
“It’s `jokes’ like these that dehumanize Asian-Americans and lead to violence,” wrote one person.
Six of the eight victims of Tuesday’s attacks were of Asian descent, including two of the four victims who were killed in Cherokee County.
Baker did not respond to voicemails and an email requesting comment on the Facebook post. The sheriff’s office also did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.