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Asian America

Dallas salon owner believes shooting a hate crime: 'He didn’t even demand money. He just came in to shoot people'

A day after saying that hate wasn't a factor in the shooting that injured three Korean women, Dallas police are now investigating it as a hate crime that may be linked to other shootings.
A Dallas police cruiser is stationed outside Hair World Spa on May 14, 2022, where a shooter opened fire and injured three Korean women.
A Dallas police cruiser is stationed outside Hair World Spa on May 14, 2022, where a shooter opened fire and injured three Korean women.Raul Rodriguez for NBC News

A shooting at a Dallas hair salon that injured three women of Korean descent may be part of a string of shootings targeting Asian businesses, police said Friday.

Dallas Police Chief Eddie Garcia said a similar vehicle was used in three recent shootings, including Wednesday's attack at a hair salon described as Korean-owned.

Police have not publicly identified a suspect.

The motive in the shootings is unknown, though Garcia indicated Friday case is now a hate crime investigation, just a day after he said "we can confidently say that hate was not a motivating factor.”

The chief said that when he made that comment, the facts hadn’t yet led to a possible link between the shootings.

“Often times it does take this long,” he said. “I’m very fortunate that our hard-working men and women did put it together so that we can clarify some things, in the abundance of caution, to give our communities a heads-up.”

If the root of the attacks turns out to be hate, Garcia said, “It has no place here.”

Detectives are working to see if there was a ballistics match for the three attacks. He announced the possible link at an afternoon news conference.

The first two attacks happened April 2 and May 10 and were characterized by Garcia as drive-by shootings that appeared to target Asian American businesses. Witnesses described a red or burgundy minivan or vehicle in those incidents; a similar older-model minivan was described at Wednesday's shooting at Hair World Salon.

Nobody was injured in the previous incidents.

The most recent shooting happened not far from the first drive-by in the northwest Dallas neighborhood.

Police Sgt. Warren Mitchell said earlier that the victims sustained injuries to their extremities and were hospitalized with non-life-threatening wounds.

Salon owner Chang Hye Jin, 44, was among those wounded and said she thought from the start that the shooting was a hate crime.

"It especially feels targeted because he didn’t even demand money," she said. "He just came in to shoot people.”

The salon's front door is usually locked and opened for each customer, but the business was so busy Wednesday that the door was left open, Chang said.

She said she was so traumatized by the violence that she has not been back to the store and isn't sure when it will reopen.

Chang was struck in her left foot by gunfire, she said, and injured her right foot as she fled.

Chang said she feels unsafe anywhere in the United States now and decried the prevalence of guns.

One man and seven women were inside the salon when another co-owner said she spotted a man holding a gun outside in a salon mirror.

The South Korean woman, who said she was terrorized by the incident, dashed to lock it. But she couldn't do so before the gunman got in and started shooting, she said.

The co-owner was injured in three places on her right arm and required a four-hour surgery, she said.

The third victim was a customer, the salon's owners said.

The Dallas police chief said he has notified the FBI, the region's Joint Terrorism Task Force, the Anti-Defamation League and the Dallas mayor's hate crimes task force.

Garcia said that trailers with security cameras would be strategically located and that extra and highly visible patrols will be deployed to areas with Asian American businesses and residents.

Police are also working with other departments in North Texas to determine if any other shootings appear to be similar, Garcia said.

The group Stop AAPI Hate tweeted Thursday, "Our hearts are with the three Korean women who were shot by a gunman in Dallas’s Koreatown."

Koreatown is also known as the Asian Trade District. The second attack happened at a strip mall with Asian businesses on Sunnyvale Street, in Dallas' Oak Cliff neighborhood, roughly 20 miles south of the Koreatown neighborhood.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Dallas' population is 4 percent nonwhite Asian. The not-for-profit tourism organization Visit Dallas has a much higher number, estimating that more than 300,000 in the city of 1.3 million have Asian heritage.

The attacks come at a time of skyrocketing hate crime against people of Asian ancestry.

A coalition of more than 50 Asian American nonprofit organizations announced this week they're organizing a multicultural march at the National Mall, in Washington, D.C., for June 25.

Rising anti-Asian hate crime was among the topics for the demonstration.

Last week a report by a number of Asian American advocacy groups found more Americans are now blaming Asian Americans for Covid-19 than at the height of the pandemic in 2021.