Man who wrote Georgia’s hate crime law says spa shooter could still be charged with one

State Rep. Bee Nguyen, D-Atlanta, took to the House floor to condemn the attacks and call attention to what she said are threats against Georgia’s Asian American Pacific Islanders.

Authorities said Robert Aaron Long, 21, of Woodstock, killed eight people in a shooting spree at Asian spas in Cherokee County and Atlanta.

He was later caught in south Georgia after authorities said they tracked his phone and stopped him using a PIT maneuver. Police believe he was on his way to Florida to commit even more shootings.

Cherokee County investigators have said, at this point, they don’t believe the shooting was racially motivated, but the man who wrote Georgia’s hate crime law told Channel 2′s Richard Elliot that he believes the law could still be used against Long.

Dozens of lawmakers joined Nguyen on the floor of the House on Wednesday to condemn the murders

“Hate crimes against Asian Americans have increased by 150%,” Nguyen said.

Police confirmed six of the victims were Asian women.

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At this point, investigators don’t believe the crimes were racially motivated, but Nguyen said that hasn’t stopped the fear from growing within Asian American Pacific Islanders, many of whom, she said, have been unfairly blamed for the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s a horrible tragedy and, you know, besides the fear that Asian Americans felt over the last year, I’m deeply saddened by it. I’m also angered by it,” Nguyen said.

State Rep. Chuck Efstration, R-Dacula, wrote Georgia’s new hate crime law.

“It’s a law that you hope will never have to be used, but when terrible circumstances arise, you’re so grateful that it is on the books,” Efstration said.

The law tacks extra penalties onto a sentence if a jury determines a crime, like murder, was motivated by hate.

Even though police don’t think the murders were racially motivated, Efstration told Elliot that the hate crime law also covers gender.

If investigators can determine the accused shooter was motivated by hate against women, then Efstration said prosecutors could use the hate crime statute.

“The great thing about the bill that we passed last year — it provides both sex and gender as protected classes in addition to race and other protected groups,” Efstration said.

A south Georgia lawmaker also took to the floor praising the job done by Crisp County deputies and state troopers to capture the alleged shooter.