The sheriff in Cherokee County says he's sorry for any "heartache" caused by a captain under his command who was heavily criticized for saying the suspect in the Atlanta area spa shootings had a "bad day" in explaining the killings.
"On behalf of the dedicated women and men of the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office we regret any heartache Captain Baker’s words may have caused," Cherokee County Sheriff Frank Reynolds said in a statement reported by ABC News.
Captain Jay Baker of the department on Wednesday said he had spoke with investigators who interviewed the suspect, Robert Long, saying "they got that impression, yes — he understood the gravity of it."
"And he was pretty much fed up and had been, kind of, at the end of his rope. And yesterday was a really bad day for him, and this is what he did," Baker said.
Reynolds said Baker's comments “were not intended to disrespect any of the victims, the gravity of this tragedy, or express empathy or sympathy for the suspect," ABC News reported.
"I have known and served with Captain Baker for many years," Reynolds said, according to the outlet. "His personal ties to the Asian community and his unwavering support and commitment to the citizens of Cherokee County are well known to many."
Baker faced swift backlash over the remarks, which appeared to offer more sympathy to the suspect in the shootings than the eight victims, including six Asian women.
Lawmakers in Washington have described the killings as a hate crime while noting the increased violence this year targeting Asian Americans. Much of the violence and discrimination has been blamed on former President TrumpDonald TrumpJan. 6 committee chair says panel will issue a 'good number' of additional subpoenas Overnight Defense & National Security — Presented by AM General — Pentagon officials prepare for grilling Biden nominates head of Africa CDC to lead global AIDS response MORE and other politicians who have tied the coronavirus to China.
Baker has also faced criticism for allegedly creating a Facebook post in March of last year that read "Place your order while they last," along with a photo of T-shirts with "Covid-19 Imported from Chy-na" printed on the front of them, ABC noted.
The post has since been deleted.