The Georgia sheriff whose agency is investigating the suspected gunman who allegedly killed eight people in Atlanta-area massage parlors said comments made by a spokesperson were not meant to disrespect the victims.
Cherokee County Sheriff Frank Reynolds issued the remarks Thursday amid criticism and furor over comments made by Capt. Jay Baker that some have deemed racist. On Wednesday, while talking to reporters about suspect Robert Long, who is accused of shooting up three massage parlors Tuesday night, he said the 21-year-old had a very "bad day."
The comment was in reference to Long's alleged confession to authorities that he has sex addiction issues and wanted to eliminate any "temptation." However, some saw the comment as being sympathetic for a White suspect while excusing his actions.
An official told the Washington Post that Baker has been removed as the spokesperson for the massage parlor shootings.
In a statement, Reynolds said his office regrets "any heartache" Baker's words may have caused.
"Comments made by Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office Captain Jay Baker have become the subject of much debate and anger," Reynolds said. "In as much as his words were taken or construed as insensitive or inappropriate, they were not intended to disrespect any of the victims, the gravity of this tragedy, or express empathy or sympathy for the suspect.
"There are simply no words to describe the degree of human suffering experienced on Tuesday, March 16, 2021, in our community and in Atlanta," he added.
Reynolds said he's known Baker for many years and cited his "personal ties to the Asian community." Most of the victims were of Asian descent.
Baker has been further criticized after social media posts went viral appearing to show him promote a T-shirt emblazoned with derogatory language about China and the coronavirus pandemic.