Police have arrested a suspect accused of opening fire inside an Asian-run hair salon in Dallas last week, injuring three Korean women, Dallas police officials announced Tuesday.
Prior to the arrest, authorities had said Wednesday's attack might be linked to two other recent shootings, which also targeted businesses run by Asian American people in the Dallas area.
On May 10, one day before the shooting at the Hair World Salon, "a suspect in a burgundy van or car drove by and shot into an Asian-run business," police said. On April 2, an individual — who witnesses said drove a red minivan — "fired shots as it drove past a strip mall of Asian-run businesses." No one was injured in either of the two shootings.
In a news conference Tuesday, police identified the suspect in the hair salon shooting as 36-year-old Jeremy Smith. He was charged with three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and is being held in lieu of $100,000 bail. It was not immediately clear whether he has an attorney.
Two years ago, Dallas Police Chief Edgardo Garcia said Smith was involved in a motor vehicle crash with an Asian man.
"Since this crash, Smith has had panic attacks and delusions when he is around anyone of Asian descent," Garcia said. According to arrest records obtained by NBC DFW, Smith's girlfriend said he was "having delusions that the Asian mob is after him or attempting to harm him," and that he was once fired from a job for verbally attacking his boss, who was Asian.
The two other shootings at Asian-run businesses are still under investigation, Garcia said, but the vehicle seen during those incidents appears to match the one driven by Smith.
"At this time, there have been no arrests on those cases, as more work and investigation needs to be done before Smith can be charged in those cases," Garcia said.
Shortly before the arrest, the FBI opened a federal hate crimes investigation into the hair salon shooting, a spokesperson for the Dallas field office told BuzzFeed News. It was not immediately clear if the two other shootings are part of that, and the FBI declined to further comment because it is an ongoing investigation.
Initially, police did not appear to believe the three shootings were connected as possible hate crimes. In a news conference shortly after the salon incident, Garcia said, "We can confidently say that hate was not a motivating factor.”
But on Friday, Garcia acknowledged that the police may have been wrong. After reviewing the three attacks, he said, police believed they were linked, largely because of the similar car seen at all three incidents.
"There is a possibility that this could be hate-motivated," Garcia said, adding that police would increase their presence "in areas of our Asian communities."
Despite law enforcement's initial hesitance, the Hair World Salon's owner, 44-year-old Chang Hye Jin, who was shot in the foot while running from the gunfire, told NBC News she immediately believed it had been a racist attack.
"It especially feels targeted because he didn’t even demand money," she said. "He just came in to shoot people.”
The Dallas shooting was not the only attack that targeted Asian communities this week. On Monday, one person was killed and five were injured after a man targeted a Taiwanese church in Laguna Woods, California. The gunman, who is of Asian descent, appeared to be motivated by a political hatred of Taiwan, officials said.
Wednesday's salon attack in Dallas came just days before yet another incident of deadly racist violence. On Saturday, 10 people — most of whom were Black — were killed in a mass shooting at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York, by a suspect who outlined his plans in a violent white supremacist manifesto.
The American Public Health Association says gun violence in the US is a public health crisis. It is a leading cause of premature death in the country, responsible for more than 38,000 deaths annually. As of May 17, at least 16,204 people have died from gun violence this year, according to data from the Gun Violence Archive.
The Dallas shootings also continue a pattern of disturbingly high rates of anti-Asian violence seen in the US since the beginning of the pandemic. Many Asian Americans, particularly older ones, have been injured or killed in unprovoked attacks across the country. In New York City in March, a man was charged with hate crimes after he allegedly assaulted seven Asian women in two hours, just weeks after a 35-year-old Korean American woman was stabbed to death in her apartment by another man.
Last March, six Asian women were killed after a man opened fire at Atlanta-area spas. Just hours before that mass shooting, the organization Stop AAPI Hate put out a report warning of a huge uptick in anti-Asian violence.