An Asian man was shot and wounded at a Renton Avenue spa on Thursday evening in what the King County Sheriff’s Office described as a “takeover” robbery.
The victim, a patron of the spa and the only customer present, was shot in the leg and cut by glass as he exited the building, according to Sgt. Tim Meyer, a spokesman for the Sheriff’s Office.
Meyer explained that the two armed suspects, who remain at large, attempted a “takeover-style robbery” in which they moved the client and spa operator into a back room to have free access to cash and other property in the front room.
The style of the robbery was similar, he said, to a number of such crimes recently at cannabis shops.
He said that while the crime does not appear to have been racially motivated, the investigation is active and ongoing.
Meyer said deputies were called to South Bay Massage and Spa in the 12400 block of Renton Avenue South, in unincorporated King County, a little after 9 p.m. Thursday.
Only the wounded customer and one worker were in the building at the time, he said.
The shooting comes days after a man fatally shot eight people in Georgia, including six Asian women, and as Asian Americans across the country speak out against hate crimes that have surged in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic repeatedly referred to as the “China virus” by former President Donald Trump.
Georgia officials say the 21-year-old white suspect in the Atlanta shootings blamed his actions on a “sex addiction,” but are investigating whether race and gender bias were factors in the shootings.
Between March 2020 and February, the nonprofit Stop AAPI Hate received reports of 3,800 hate incidents against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders nationwide. Most of the incidents were verbal harassment, followed by shunning and physical assault, according to a report released Tuesday. Hate incidents involving women were reported 2.3 times more than those targeting men.
“Just because the police aren’t labeling it as racism doesn’t erase what we are experiencing in this moment,” said Seattle resident Vy Nguyen, adding that it felt dismissive that sex addiction was being considered as a cause for Tuesday’s violence.
Earlier this week, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and interim police Chief Adrian Diaz promised increased patrols and protections.
“We grieve with Atlanta and for the victims and their families,” they said. “We also stand together with our Asian American community against the rise of hate crimes toward Asian Americans, which especially target Chinese Americans. In Seattle and across our nation, our Asian American neighbors, places of worship, and businesses have been deliberately targeted by racism, xenophobia, and acts of violence related to misconceptions of COVID-19. Just this weekend after repeated incidents in our community, Seattle came together to stand against this hatred toward Asian Americans.”
The two added that former Gov. Gary Locke, “so clearly said ‘hate is a virus.’ And through our acts, we must each be the cure.”
Gov. Jay Inslee also released a statement Wednesday, characterizing the violence as part of a nationwide rise in anti-Asian violence. “These shootings reflect hate against Asians, against women, and against immigrants. We all have a role in denouncing hatred wherever it reveals itself.”
Information from The Seattle Times archives is included in this report.