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Jeremy Theron Smith faces three charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Photo: Dallas County jail via AP

Suspect in shooting of three Korean women in US had ‘delusions about Asians’, authorities say

  • The FBI has opened a hate crime probe into the incident at a Texas hair salon that left three wounded, in echoes of last year’s Atlanta attacks
  • Police say Jeremy Theron Smith, 36, was in a car crash involving an Asian man, and has since had panic attacks when around anyone of Asian descent

Dallas police arrested a suspect in connection with last week’s shooting at a Koreatown hair salon that wounded three women of Asian descent, and federal authorities have opened a hate crime investigation, officials said on Tuesday.

Authorities said the alleged gunman – identified by police as Jeremy Theron Smith, 36 – harboured delusions about Asian people since having a car crash involving an Asian man two years ago.

Since the crash, “Smith has had panic attacks and delusions when he is around anyone of Asian descent,” Dallas Police Chief Eddie Garcia told reporters.

The suspect has been charged with three counts of assault with a deadly weapon. Smith was booked early on Tuesday and is being held in Dallas County jail.

The FBI along with the US Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Texas and the civil rights division of the US Department of Justice announced they had launched a hate crime investigation into the shooting.

The shooter entered a hair salon in the city’s Koreatown section on Wednesday, opened fire and wounded the owner of the Hair World Salon, a stylist who worked there and a customer. All three were Korean women. They were taken to a local hospital with non-life-threatening wounds.

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Police initially said there was no evidence suggesting that the shooting was a hate crime but that changed late last week when Garcia said new details uncovered during the investigation now suggested that there may be a “link to hate”.

He said investigators were looking into a possible connection between the Wednesday shooting and others in recent weeks targeting Asian businesses in the city. A red or maroon vehicle was spotted at all three crime scenes, he said. No one was hit in the other two shootings.

The Texas incident echoed last year’s Atlanta-area shooting spree that targeted women of Asian descent, sending waves of fear and distrust within the Asian-American community.

Attacks against people of Asian descent have escalated in recent years, in part because of the perception that China was responsible for triggering the worldwide coronavirus pandemic.

In Dallas, law enforcement circulated images from the scene that showed a person wearing black and carrying a large rifle while appearing to run out of a car park.

The Korean-American community in the Dallas area ranks among the largest in the United States, according to the Pew Research Centre, and Koreatown is the historic hub of the area’s Asian and Asian-American residents.