Biden postpones event promoting Covid relief in Atlanta to meet with Asian American leaders

On Thursday, Biden also ordered that American flags be flown at half-staff on federal grounds to honor those killed in the three attacks on Atlanta-area spas. Eight people died in the attacks, among them seven women and six women of Asian descent.

Georgia law enforcement officials have received widespread criticism after suggesting the suspect, a white man, may not have been “racially motivated” in the killings. Capt. Jay Baker of the Cherokee County, Ga., sheriff’s office said the suspect claimed to suffer from a sex addiction and saw the spas as a “temptation … to eliminate.”

Biden said Wednesday that the “the question of motivation is still to be determined” but called said the attacks were “troublesome.”

“Whatever the motivation here, I know that Asian Americans are very concerned because, as you know, I’ve been speaking about the brutality against Asian Americans for the last couple months, and I think it’s very, very troublesome,” Biden said.

FBI Director Christopher Wray told NPR on Thursday that it didn’t seem race motivated the killings but added that investigations were still underway.

“While the motive remains still under investigation at the moment, it does not appear that the motive was racially motivated,” he said. “But I really would defer to the state and local investigation on that for now.”

Democratic lawmakers have put forward potential policy changes to speed up hate crime reviews and change how hate crimes are reported. Advocates have also called for cultural change after former President Donald Trump made anti-Asian comments amid the coronavirus pandemic, arguing Trump’s statements helped fuel an increase in anti-Asian hate crimes.

Biden has rolled out an aggressive strategy to sell his relief plan over the pas week, traveling himself and sending other administration emissaries to battleground states to broadcast to the plan’s benefits.

Benjamin Din contributed to this report.