ATLANTA (AP) — A Facebook page appearing to belong to a Georgia sheriff’s office spokesman who is helping to investigate the recent massage parlor slayings promoted a T-shirt with racist language about China and the coronavirus last year.
“Place your order while they last,” the March 2020 Facebook post said, along with a smiley face emoji.
The Facebook account, belonging to a “Jay Baker,” features numerous photos of Cherokee County sheriff’s Capt. Jay Baker going back months, including one in which he is in uniform outside the sheriff’s office. The account was deleted Wednesday night.
The discovery of the Facebook post comes amid concerns from some Asian Americans that authorities are not treating the killings, which mainly targeted women of Asian descent, as hate crimes.
Baker also came under criticism for saying Wednesday that the 21-year-old man accused of carrying out the massacres had had a “bad day.”
“He was pretty much fed up and kind of end of his rope and yesterday was a really bad day for him and this is what he did,” Baker said during a news conference.
Asian American activists said Baker’s comments and the Facebook post undermine public confidence that investigators are adequately addressing Tuesday’s atrocity.
“To see this post is both disturbing and outrageous. It speaks to the structural racism that we’re all up against,” said Vincent Pan, co-executive director of Chinese for Affirmative Action, a civil rights organization working to address anti-Asian hate crimes. “Coupled with the comments coming out of the news conference, it does not give community members confidence that our experiences and the pain and the suffering that we’re feeling are being taken seriously, at least by this particular person.”
Six of the eight victims of Tuesday’s attacks were of Asian descent, including two of the four victims who were killed in Cherokee County.
Baker did not respond to voicemails and an email requesting comment on the Facebook post. The sheriff’s office Thursday afternoon released a statement on behalf of Sheriff Frank Reynolds, saying in part:
“Comments made by Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office Captain Jay Baker have become the subject of much debate and anger. In as much as his words were taken or construed as insensitive or inappropriate, they were not intended to disrespect any of the victims, the gravity of this tragedy or express empathy or sympathy for the suspect. There are simply no words to describe the degree of human suffering experienced on Tuesday March 16, 2021 in our community and in Atlanta. Captain Baker had a difficult task before him, and this was one of the hardest in his twenty-eight years in law enforcement.
I have known and served with Captain Baker for many years. His personal ties to the Asian community and his unwavering support and commitment to the citizens of Cherokee County are well known to many. On behalf of the dedicated women and men of the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office we regret any heartache Captain Baker’s words may have caused.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report