‘Negligent and irresponsible’: Calls grow to investigate Allen shooting as a hate crime
The altar at Oak Lawn United Methodist Church in Dallas was set with photos of the eight victims who were killed in a mass shooting at an Allen mall.
The vigil Monday included speakers from a rainbow coalition of local and national advocacy groups including Stop AAPI Hate, Somos Tejas and Remembering Black Dallas, among others. The message was one of healing following the May 6 shooting.
But some speakers also drove home a point many in the community had already noticed: Most or all of the victims were people of color and, disproportionately, Asian American.
“Anti-Asian racism is what brought us here today, but the history of Dallas is also about the communities who came together in solidarity and support for one another,” said Stephanie Drenka, founder of the Dallas Asian American Historical Society.
Since the shooting, community members have been calling on law enforcement and local politicians to classify the deadly mass shooting as a hate crime, with some advocates criticizing the official police response.
The Texas Department of Public Safety confirmed last week that the shooter, 33-year-old Mauricio Garcia, had neo-Nazi tattoos and patches. Media reports also showed Garcia made anti-Asian social media posts.
Despite that, public safety officials believe he "targeted the location rather than a specific group of people," according to DPS Regional Director Hank Sibley.
That explanation wasn't good enough for advocates in the Asian American community, who at press conference earlier Monday said it showed a lack of understanding bias.
“We are calling on local and statewide officials to do their jobs and to take action to protect the safety and welfare of Texans across the state, including the Asian American and Pacific Islander community,” said Lily Trieu, the interim executive director of Asian Texans for Justice.
Allen has one of the fastest growing Asian American populations in the state. About one-fifth of its residents are of Asian descent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Trieu said the response was similar in scope to another attack on the community last year, when a man shot and injured three women at Hair World Salon in Dallas Koreatown.
Immediately following that incident, Dallas Police Chief Eddie Garcia and DPS said they did not believe the incident was motivated by hate, only to change course after pressure from the community.
"In a span of less than a year, the Department of Public Safety has once again made statements dismissing incidents of gun violence against the Asian community in North Texas as not being racially motivated," Trieu said. "Not only is this insulting to a community who is fearful for their safety, it is negligent and irresponsible."
At Monday night's vigil, singers from the Turtle Creek Chorale serenaded the audience of more than 150 people. That was followed by a message from Erika Moritsugu, deputy assistant to President Biden and the administration's Asian American and Pacific Islander senior liaison.
"On that fateful day, hopes and dreams were shattered and lives were cut too short," Moritsugu said. "The president and vice president know all too well the lingering pain of losing a loved one. They send their deepest condolences as they recognize your burden of loss, trauma and grief."
Namrata Sharma, who lives near the outlet mall where the shooting happened, said she was coming back from taking her daughter to a birthday party when she noticed cars driving erratically away from the mall.
"We started hearing the helicopters buzzing, and that's when we started getting texts that there was an active shooter in the outlet mall, which just scared us," Sharma said.
Now Sharma's daughter is too scared to go near the mall that her family frequented often.
"It was part of our life," Sharma said. "That's where I used to go to buy my kids' clothes, but we have to avoid it for a long time."
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