A hate-crimes law that was passed in Georgia last year could come into play if the authorities determine that the suspect in this week’s deadly shootings at Atlanta-area massage parlors was motivated by racism or misogyny.
The suspect, Robert Aaron Long, told investigators that he was driven by what he has described as a sex addiction, not by racism. Six of the eight victims were of Asian descent.
Hate-crime charges for attacks against Asians are rare, as they require proof of a racist motive that can be difficult to establish. Mr. Long was initially charged with eight counts of murder and one count of aggravated assault.
But hate-crime charges could be added later under the new Georgia law, which passed with bipartisan support and was signed by Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican, in June. Before that, Georgia was one of the few states without a hate-crime law.
The bill had been stalled for years but gained steam last summer after the death of Ahmaud Arbery, a Black man who was fatally shot near Brunswick, Ga., in February 2020. A graphic video of the shooting sparked widespread outrage, one of several killings that inspired nationwide protests over racial justice.
The law allows for extra penalties to be applied for crimes motivated by a victim’s race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender or disability.
Chuck Efstration, a Republican state representative who sponsored the hate crimes law, told WSB-TV in Atlanta that he believed it could apply in this case. Even if investigators can’t prove racism as the motivation, the law also covers gender, he pointed out. All but one of the eight people who were killed in Tuesday’s shootings were women.
“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,” Mr. Efstration said.