By CBS 2 Chicago Staff

CHICAGO (CBS) — Chicago’s mayor called the mass shooting in Atlanta, where eight people died including six women of Asian descent, a hate crime.

Speaking during her news conference on a COVID update for the city, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said the Asian American community has been targeted by hateful vitriol since the start of the pandemic.

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“Make no mistake, this was a hate crime,” Lightfoot said.

“This was a crime that has shown a harsh light on the anti-Asian violence and hateful rhetoric that has been on the rise since COVID-19 became a global pandemic,” she said. “And fanned by the hateful rhetoric of our former president in this country.”

Lightfoot said she checked in with Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown about any credible threats to the city’s Asian communities.

“I want to remind folks, and hopefully this will be of some comfort, we have no actual intelligence regarding a specific threat against our Asian or Pacific Islander communities here in Chicago,” Lightfoot said.

She added “I want to say directly to our neighbors and our friends in the Asian and Pacific Islander communities: You are not alone. We stand united with you; and if you see something, please say something.”

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Lightfoot said Superintendent Brown has alerted CPD to note any information regarding potential harm to those communities in Chicago.

“The superintendent has directed that our officers remain diligent. And they will,” Lightfoot said. “District commanders have initiated outreach with local community leaders, advocates, and business owners throughout the Asian and Pacific Islander communities. In addition to CPD will increase their presence in patrols in the same communities.”

On Tuesday, eight people, including six women of Asian descent, were shot and killed at three Atlanta-area spas, and another man was wounded. A suspect, identified as 21-year-old Robert Aaron Long, is in custody.

Long told police that the attack was not racially motivated and claimed to have a “sex addiction,” with authorities saying he apparently lashed out at what he saw as sources of temptation.

CBS News reports the shootings and their deadly toll on members of Atlanta’s Asian American community came amid rising nationwide concern about violence targeting Asian American and Pacific Islanders. A study released last week revealed that hate crimes against Asian Americans surged roughly 150% in 2020. Women, according to the study, are attacked roughly 2.5 times more than men.

Lightfoot said, based on the news reports she’s seen, the Atlanta shootings weren’t a random act of violence.

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“I think the fact that this shooter, who obviously is entitled to a presumption of innocence, went into business venues that were staffed by primarily Asian individuals and shot down, says to me, this wasn’t an accident, or random,” Lightfoot said. “And given that he went to three different locations, that he targeted Asian women in each of those locations, said to me that this wasn’t anything random but it was an intentional. And it feels to me, as a former member of law enforcement, like a hate crime.”

CBS 2 Chicago Staff