ATLANTA (AP) — After the killings of eight people at massage businesses in the Atlanta area, a group of former top prosecutors issued an open letter Thursday expressing support for the Asian American community and condemning acts of hatred against any group.
The letter notes that the more than 120 former U.S. attorneys who signed it are from all parts of the country and represent different races, religions, sexual orientations, genders, generations and political affiliations.
“And in these hyper-partisan and divisive times, we may disagree on a lot,” the letter says. “But we agree on this: We are united in supporting the Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander communities as we mourn together.”
They also expressed unity “in our condemnation of all acts of hatred and bigotry, and the words of hatred and bigotry that inspire them, whether they are directed at Asians, Blacks, women, members of the LGBTQ community or any other historically disadvantaged group.”
Police said Robert Aaron Long, a 21-year-old white man, fatally shot eight people March 16 at two massage businesses in Atlanta and one in Cherokee County, about 30 miles (50 kilometers) northwest of the city. A ninth person was shot and injured. Long told investigators he had a sex addiction, and authorities have said he appears to have targeted businesses he saw as a temptation.
Police have said they were still working to determine a motive for the shootings. But the fact that seven of the slain were women and six of them of Asian descent, has prompted calls for hate crime charges.
After outlining past mistreatment of people of Asian descent in the U.S., the former prosecutors’ letter adds that “tragically, inexcusably, our nation still confronts an epidemic of violence against women, and against women in these very communities.”
A mistrust of law enforcement among those communities has led to an underreporting of hate crimes, the letter says. The former U.S. attorneys call on the U.S. Department of Justice to work with state and local law enforcement to do more to address acts of hatred and bigotry, including maintaining better data.