Captain Jay Baker has been removed as the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson in the Atlanta spa shooting case following comments he made about the gunman, CNN reports.
At a news conference on Wednesday, Mr Baker said that Robert Aaron Long, who has been charged with eight counts of murder, was “was pretty much fed up and kind of at the end of his rope” on Tuesday when he brought a gun to several Atlanta-based spas. The spokesperson added that it “was a really bad day for him, and this is what he did.”
Eight people were killed, including six Asian-American women.
The comments were criticised following the press conference as insensitive and inappropriate given the circumstances surrounding the shooting.
Mr Baker also said that the actions displayed by the suspect on Tuesday were not racially motivated based on what Long told police officers. “He apparently has an issue, what he considers a sex addiction, and sees these locations as something that allows him to go to these places, and it’s a temptation for him that he wanted to eliminate,” Mr Baker said.
But critics thought it was too soon to rule out the incident as a hate crime given that Asian-run businesses were targeted and six of the victims were Asian American.
Following Mr Baker’s remarks during the Wednesday press conference, social media posts allegedly from the spokesperson surfaced of him promoting anti-Asian shirts to his followers in 2020.
“Love my shirt” Mr Baker allegedly wrote while sharing two pictures of shirts that read: “Covid 19 IMPORTED VIRUS FROM CHY-NA.”
The Facebook account has since been deleted, but CNN and The Daily Beast reported the account was under the name “Jay Baker” and included employment information at the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Department. Mr Baker has not commented on the social media posts.