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Dallas salon shooting is hate crime, suspect had 'panic attacks and delusions' around Asian people, police say

The shooting at Hair World Salon last week injured three women of Korean descent. Police say it might be part of a string of similar incidents.

Police in Dallas announced the arrest of a suspect Tuesday in connection with a shooting at a Dallas hair salon last week that injured three women of Korean descent.

Jeremy Theron Smith, 36, was arrested Monday and charged later with three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

Police Chief Eddie Garcia, who said the investigation is ongoing, confirmed that the shooting is being investigated as a hate crime.

"Right now it's an issue of hate — it's a hate crime," Garcia said. "However that manifests itself, I'm not here to say that. I can tell you that I know our community sees it as a hate crime, I see it as a hate crime, and so do our men and women."

Garcia said police identified Smith through security video and by tracking a red Honda Odyssey he is alleged to have driven to and from Hair World Salon, where the women were shot.

Garcia said Smith was involved in a car crash with an Asian man several years ago and has since suffered "panic attacks and delusions when he is around anyone of Asian descent."

He had also been fired from a job after he verbally attacked a boss of Asian descent, his arresting documents said. 

Because of those incidents, Smith had been admitted to several mental health facilities, the arresting document said.

Smith said he was in the area of Royal Lane the day of the Hair World Salon shooting “looking for a business that could replace a broken pane of glass from a garage door,” the arrest warrant said. 

A search warrant executed on his vehicle after his arrest produced a handgun, a gun magazine and ammunition, Garcia said

Smith was being held in the Dallas County jail on three charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, jail records show. It's not clear whether he has a lawyer.

The arrest came not long after the FBI announced that it had opened a federal hate crime investigation into the shooting.

The FBI's Dallas field office said in a statement that it had opened the investigation alongside the U.S. Attorney's Office for Northern Texas and the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department.

The Justice Department confirmed that an investigation had been opened but didn’t say exactly when.

The FBI field office said it was also "in close communication with Dallas Police and are partnering together to thoroughly investigate this incident."

Garcia, the police chief, suggested last week that the shooting at the hair salon could be part of a string of similar incidents targeting Asian businesses, an apparent reversal after he initially said police were confident that "hate was not a motivating factor."

Garcia said a similar vehicle was used in three recent shootings, including Wednesday's attack. He said Tuesday that there have been no arrests in those cases and that the investigations are ongoing

"More work or investigation needs to be done before Smith can or will be charged in those cases," Garcia said.

In the shooting Wednesday, which occurred in an area called the Asian Trade District, known as Koreatown, a gunman entered Hair World Salon at around 2:20 p.m. and opened fire, striking the three women.

The shooter fled in a maroon minivan similar to those described in previous attacks targeting Asian American businesses, police said.

At least 13 shots were fired — seven casings were found inside the business and six outside the main door — according to the arrest document.

The salon’s owner, Chang Hye Jin, 44, who was among those injured, said she believed the shooting was a hate crime from the start.

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

She said that the front door is usually locked and opened every time a customer visits but that it had been left open Wednesday because it was such a busy day.

The U.S. continues to grapple with a surge in hate crime against people of Asian ancestry. A gunman killed eight women, six of them of Asian descent, in attacks at three spas in the Atlanta area a little more than a year ago.

Speaking at a community safety meeting at the Korean Cultural Center of Dallas on Monday night, Garcia said detectives were making progress in the investigation into possible hate-motivated shootings targeting Asian-owned businesses, NBC San Diego reported.

“We feel very confident that we’re moving in the right direction,” he said.