In a recently released interview, Mario González, a survivor of last week’s shooting spree that left eight dead in the Atlanta area, said police detained him for hours before telling him his wife had been killed.
González and his wife, Delaina Ashley Yaun, were at Young’s Asian Massage when a gunman attacked the establishment last Tuesday. González told MundoHispánico, a Spanish-language news site, that he and his wife had been receiving massages in separate rooms when the shooting began and that he had hunkered down, fearful for himself and worried about his wife.
When authorities arrived, they handcuffed González for hours, according to González’ niece. González said he believed police may have wrongly detained him because he is Mexican.
He also said it took hours before they told him his wife had been murdered. “And they knew I was the husband,” González said, questioning aloud why he’d been handcuffed.
“Maybe because I’m Mexican, I don’t know,” he added. “Because the truth is, they treated me badly.” He told MundoHispánico he could see shooting victims lying in pools of blood while he sat detained outside the spa.
The Atlanta Police Department and the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office have faced allegations of racism and widespread criticism for their handling of the killing spree since they captured the alleged shooter, a 21-year-old white man named Robert Long, last Tuesday.
Six of the eight people killed were Asian — at a time when anti-Asian hate crimes are clearly on the rise — but local authorities have stopped short of calling their deaths a hate crime. Instead, police surmised last week that Long had attacked the spas because they represented a “temptation he wanted to eliminate,” a justification many people believe advances harmful stereotypes about Asian women.
The Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office was eventually forced to remove its original spokesperson in charge of the case, Capt. Jay Baker, after he said the alleged shooter had killed eight people because he was having a “really bad day.” Baker was also found to have shared racist merchandise blaming Asians for the coronavirus pandemic on social media.
In a statement, Cherokee County Sheriff Frank Reynolds addressed Baker’s comments but did not address the social media posts. Reynolds claimed Baker’s words “were not intended to disrespect any of the victims” and said the department regrets “any heartache Captain Baker’s words may have caused.”
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