President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris addressed Tuesday’s lethal shootings at a series of spas in the Atlanta area, expressing concerns about any violence against Asian Americans.
Biden said on Wednesday that brutality against Asian Americans is “very troubling.”
In her most formal remarks about the ongoing issue of violence against the Asian American community, Harris – the first person of South Asian descent to hold her office – said the shooting also spoke to the “larger issue” of violence.
Both declined to assign the suspected shooter’s motivation until the Justice Department weighs in.
Biden said in the Oval Office that he was “very concerned because, as you know, I’ve been speaking about the brutality against Asian Americans for the last couple of months.”
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“And I think it is very, very troubling. But I’m making no connection at this moment to the motivation of the killer. I’m waiting for an answer from, as the investigation proceeds, from the FBI and from the Justice Department,” he said. “I’ll have more to say when the investigation is completed.”
Harris, who has previously spoken about the racism she and her family members in this country have faced, called the shooting “tragic.”
“Our country, the President and I and all of us, we grieve for the loss,” she said. “Our prayers are extended to the families of those who have been killed, and it speaks to a larger issue, which is the issue of violence in our country and what we must do to never tolerate it and to always speak out against it.”
Eight people were shot dead at three spas in the Atlanta area on Tuesday. Six were Asian women, according to law enforcement officials. The shootings come amid an alarming spike in violence and harassment directed at the Asian American community in recent months.
Last week, during a speech marking the one-year anniversary of the coronavirus pandemic, Biden condemned hate and discrimination toward the Asian American community.
Some public officials and organizations have raised concerns that ethnicity came into play, but Atlanta Police Department Chief Rodney Bryant said Wednesday morning that it is still too early in the investigation to determine if Tuesday’s shootings are a hate crime.
“I do want to say to our Asian American community that we stand with you and understand how this has frightened and shocked and outraged all people,” Harris said during a bilateral meeting with Irish officials commemorating St. Patrick’s Day.
“(K)nowing the increasing level of hate crimes against our Asian American brothers and sisters, we also want to speak out in solidarity with them and acknowledge that none of us should ever be silent in the face of any form of hate,” she added.
CNN’s Jasmine Wright contributed to this report.