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‘Deeply disturbing': Man arrested in possible hate crime shooting at Dallas hair salon

The suspect had delusions that Asian people were “after him,” his girlfriend told police

dallas hair salon shooting

Police on Tuesday arrested a man who opened fire last week inside a hair salon in Dallas’ Koreatown area, wounding three people. Police are investigating the shooting as a possible hate crime.

AP Photo/Jamie Stengle

By James Hartley
Fort Worth Star-Telegram

DALLAS — The possibility that last week’s shooting at a Korean hair salon in Dallas may be part of a series of racially motivated attacks on the Asian-American community is “chilling and deeply disturbing,” Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson said in a statement.

“I want our city’s Asian-American community — which has appallingly faced increased vitriol in recent years — to know that the City of Dallas and the people of Dallas stand with them,” Johnson said in his statement Friday. “Hate has no place in our city. This gunman must be arrested swiftly and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

Dallas police announced Tuesday that a suspect in the salon shooting is in custody.

In an arrest warrant affidavit obtained by the Star-Telegram, the suspect was identified as 36-year-old Jeremy Theron Smith. His girlfriend told police that Smith had been having delusions that Asian people are “after him or attempting to harm him” since he was in a car crash two years ago with an Asian man, according to the affidavit.

Police said at a news conference Tuesday afternoon that they are investigating the possibility that the salon shooting was the result of a mental illness but that, for now, evidence points them toward the attack being a racist hate crime. The investigation is continuing, and Smith has not been charged in the other shootings.

On Monday night, at a community public safety meeting held at the city’s Korean Cultural Center, one of the three women injured in the shooting at Hair World Salon spoke to a crowd that included generations of Dallas Asian-Americans, Star-Telegram media partner WFAA-TV reported.

Through a police interpreter, the salon employee, who wore an arm sling and cast, said she was shot three times but was feeling better.

“She feels really energetic now, and she feels really positive that this meeting is happening,” the police interpreter said, according to WFAA. “Right now, she said she’s dealing with trauma and grief. But she’s happy that we’re all here and that the community is giving support. She’s also asking for prayers. She’s not asking for generosity but needs help. Her business is closed and hasn’t been able to open, and she needs the support.”

Police Chief Eddie Garcia said at a news conference Friday that the May 11 shooting — in which the owner, an employee and a customer of the salon were shot — may be connected to two drive-by shootings that targeted Asian-American-owned businesses on May 10 and April 2. The shooter in each incident drove a similar vehicle, police said.

Garcia said his department was deploying more officers to patrol Asian-American communities in Dallas. The FBI and other federal agencies also have opened a hate crime investigation.

Prior to Tuesday’s announcement of an arrest, John Jun, the vice chair of the Korean American Coalition of Dallas-Fort Worth, told the Star-Telegram the Korean and general Asian-American communities in the area were worried but felt that police were responding seriously to the threat.

“There is a sense of insecurity and uneasiness, not only among the owners but also the visitors that come and visit and shop and dine throughout the year in Koreatown,” Jun said. “Everyone is on the edge, nervous, especially the business owners. They’re out there all the time, pretty much all day, Monday to Sunday, and there’s concern not just among the owners but the customers.”

Jun said the Korean-American community in Dallas noticed an increased police presence almost immediately after Garcia announced that there was a possible connection between the shooting at the hair salon and the two drive-by shootings.

He’s also seen support from others in the greater community, whether it be from groups like the Chinese or Jewish communities or from people in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex at large, who are asking for ways they can show support to Korean Americans affected by the violence.

“We really appreciate that people realize this is a community issue, not just something that affects one ethnic group but the entire community at large,” Jun said.

He added that Koreatowns like those in Dallas and Carrollton have been fortunate not to see violence against Asian Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic as he said many in the community heard about in California and New York. There is concern within the community that this could be an extension of that violence, but most feel positively that these attacks have not been a coordinated effort to target a specific ethnic group and that if the shooter is captured, things can return to normal.

There will likely be an increased sense of caution for years to come, Jun said, but the fear felt by many in the community can be temporary.

Haltom City Mayor An Truong, a Vietnamese American, said he does not believe the attacks on Asian businesses are linked to a widespread ideology but instead “a few bad apples.”

He said in his city, some business owners, especially those of nail salons, have complained to him that customers are coming into their stores, getting their nails done and then leaving and refusing to pay. The owners of the shops don’t want to be too confrontational, Truong said, but more often they are getting the police involved in issues like this. But he said he doesn’t know of any violent crimes targeting Asian Americans within his community.

Truong said one important thing to do is get together as a greater community to stand up against hate crimes against Asian Americans.

“This is not acceptable,” Truong said. “We need the community to get together, including all the ethnic group leaders, to see what we can do together.”

Police in Fort Worth, Carrollton, Garland, Grand Prairie and Arlington, which all have large Asian-American communities, told the Star-Telegram they haven’t seen any hate crimes targeting those communities recently.

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