St. Paul PD stepping up patrols to protect Asian community after Atlanta attacks

The St. Paul Police Department says it is increasing patrols around schools, businesses and neighborhoods where Asian community members gather after a series of attacks in Atlanta that left eight people dead, most of whom were of Asian descent. 

A 21-year-old white man is accused of shooting and killing eight people at three different massage parlors in the Atlanta area Tuesday night, the Associated Press reported. Six of the victims were identified as Asian and seven were women. 

Attacks on Asian Americans have increased over the last year, coinciding with the spread of COVID-19 in the United States and misinformation surrounding the coronavirus, which was first identified in China. Authorities say they are investigating whether Tuesday’s deadly shootings were hate crimes. 

The St. Paul Police Department says it has not received any threats of violence against businesses or groups of people in the city, but Chief Todd Axtell has reached out to leaders in the city’s Asian community to "listen to concerns and offer support." 

"We’re standing with all our neighbors against hate of any kind," the police department said in a statement. "There is no place for discrimination or bias in St. Paul or anywhere else."  

The Minnesota Asian Pacific Caucus issued a statement Wednesday in response to the deadly shootings in Atlanta, condemning the attacks and calling on state and federal governments to do more to fight disinformation and hateful language. 

"This is the tragic result of increasingly hateful, offensive, and inflammatory rhetoric against Asian people that has taken place over the last year. Racist language and attacks on Asian Americans have skyrocketed as a result of COVID-19 misinformation, and racial epithets spouted by our previous president. Asian Minnesotans have felt this increase in hatred as well. We experience hate in many forms every day, leaving us with the fear of, ‘will our community be next?’

"We ask that state and federal governments do more to fight disinformation, hateful language, and hate crimes by funding improved data collection and reporting of hate crimes and consistently working to reduce disinformation. Today, we mourn for those who lost their lives due to the hate and fear that has built up in this country. We will continue to fight this hate, but we ask that our friends, communities, and politicians stand up for all Asian Americans to ensure a tragedy like this never happens again."

Both the Minnesota House and the Senate held a moment of silence Wednesday afternoon for the victims of the deadly Atlanta shootings. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.