Police Chief Eddie García said Friday that a shooting that wounded northwest women of Korean descent at a hair salon in Dallas may have been a hate crime — a day after he said police had ruled out hate as a factor.
A man fired multiple shots Wednesday inside the Hair World Salon in the 2200 block of Royal Lane before fleeing in a red minivan. Three employees in the salon were struck and were hospitalized with injuries that weren’t life-threatening. One customer was inside and was unhurt.
At a news conference at police headquarters, García said the shooting may be connected to at least two other crimes that had targeted the city’s Asian community.
The first took place on April 2, also in the 2200 block of Royal Lane, near Interstate 35E, where shots were fired into three Asian-owned businesses, but no one was injured. Witnesses reported that the driver fled in a red minivan.
And on Tuesday, a man believed to be driving a burgundy van shot into an Asian-run business in the 4800 block of Sunnyvale Street, near East Ledbetter Drive in east Oak Cliff. Three people were inside but were uninjured, police said.
García said Thursday that authorities had done their due diligence and that police could “confidently say that hate was not a motivating factor” in Wednesday’s shooting. But on Friday, the chief said the department’s stance changed because of the “ongoing investigation and a consistent review of officer reports made by the department’s crime analysis unit.”
“Out of an abundance of caution,” García said he has reached out to agencies including the FBI, the North Texas Joint Terrorism Taskforce and other local departments to determine whether any additional crimes in their jurisdictions might be related.
The department has also been in contact with local Asian community and business leaders, the Texoma office of the Anti-Defamation League and Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson’s hate crime advisory council.
In a written statement, Johnson said it was “chilling and deeply disturbing” to know that the shooting may have been a hate crime.
“I want our city’s Asian American community — which has appallingly faced increasing vitriol in recent years — to know that the City of Dallas and the people of Dallas stand with them,” the mayor said.
State Rep. Rafael Anchía, a Democrat whose district includes the salon, said “Dallas will not tolerate hate toward our Asian community.”
Lily Trieu, executive director of the Austin-based advocacy group Asian Texans for Justice, said her organization appreciated that García was listening to the community’s concerns and was looking into whether Wednesday’s shooting was tied to other violence.
“We’re relieved that all three victims are safe and in recovery, but this kind of attack makes our entire community feel unsafe,” Trieu said.
Charles Park, a Korean American activist based in North Texas, said he thinks Dallas police realized that it was too early to dismiss the shooting as a hate crime.
”It’s going to be a long way to solve this issue, but it’s one step in the right direction, I think,” he said.
Brian Kim, secretary general of the Greater Dallas Korean American Chamber of Commerce — a group whose main priority is to ensure safety at Korean-owned businesses — said Dallas police should take steps to provide greater security in the area.
“If this is a hate crime, we really worry about the security, because there are many Korean businesses on Royal Lane,” Kim said. “They want to be safe and protected.”
Moving forward, García said the department will be using surveillance camera trailers and increasing patrols in certain areas that have been or could be targeted.
Police have described the gunman in Wednesday’s shooting as 5-7 to 5-10, with a thin build, curly medium-length hair and a beard. He was wearing all black, police said.
The police chief said authorities were sharing information about the potential motive for the shooting in hopes it sparks enough action to lead to an arrest.
“We are turning to every citizen in the city of Dallas to keep an eye out and safeguard our city,” he said. “Hate has no place here. … If you see something, say something.”
A hate crime finding in Texas enhances the possible punishment for a crime. For example, a second-degree felony is typically punishable by two to 20 years in prison. But if a jury believes the act was a hate crime, the punishment increases to the range for a first-degree felony: five to 99 years or life.
But it can be hard to prove an incident was a hate crime, and such cases generally take more investigative work than non-hate crimes.