By Dakin Andone and Jennifer Henderson, CNN
Updated: Wed, 18 May 2022 22:56:56 GMT
Federal officials are investigating a shooting that wounded three people at a Korean-owned salon in Dallas last week as a potential hate crime, as local authorities say they believe the attack is connected to two earlier attacks at other Asian-run businesses.
The FBI's field office in Dallas, the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division and the US Attorney's Office for the Northern District in Texas announced the federal hate crime investigation in a statement Monday.
"We are in close communication with Dallas Police and are partnering together to thoroughly investigate this incident," the statement from the FBI field office said. "As this is an ongoing investigation, we are not able to comment further at this time."
Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot voiced support for the investigation Tuesday, saying in a statement, "Based on what's been sent to our office, there's more than enough to justify prosecuting this as a hate crime."
Police have arrested a suspect, identified as 36-year-old Jeremy Theron Smith. He already faces state charges in connection to the shooting, including seven counts of felony aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, according to Dallas Police.
According to probable cause affidavits obtained by CNN, police believe Smith entered Hair World Salon May 11 with a .22-caliber rifle and began shooting. He fired approximately 13 times, hitting three people before fleeing the scene, the affidavits say. One person was shot in the right forearm, one was shot in the foot and one was shot in the lower back.
Authorities have obtained surveillance video of a man who matches the suspect's description running to a vehicle parked across the street from the salon. That vehicle is described as a red Honda Odyssey minivan, per the affidavits.
Smith is currently being held in the Dallas County Jail, according to the affidavits. CNN could not reach him for comment and has been unable to determine whether he has legal representation to speak on his behalf.
Police see connection to 2 other attacks
Smith's arrest comes amid a surge of reported hate crimes against Asian Americans -- including two other attacks in Dallas authorities believe are connected to the Hair World Salon shooting, police Chief Edgardo Garcia said in a news conference Tuesday, pointing to a similar vehicle involved in both incidents.
The day before the salon shooting, a suspect in a burgundy van or car drove by and shot into another Asian-run business, police said; three people there at the time were not injured. And on April 2, a vehicle described by witnesses as a red minivan drove past a strip mall of Asian-run businesses and fired at three businesses, Garcia said at the time.
"At this time, there have been no arrests on those cases as more work or investigation needs to be done before Smith can be charged in those cases," Garcia said Tuesday.
Police interviewed Smith's girlfriend, who the affidavits say told them Smith was in a car accident about two years ago that also involved an Asian man. Since then, Smith "has had near panic attacks when he is around anyone of Asian descent."
"Anytime the suspect (Smith) is around anyone of Asian descent he begins having delusions that the Asian mob is after him or attempting to harm him," the affidavits continue. "Due to the delusions, the suspect has been admitted to several mental health facilities."
CNN has reached out to Smith's girlfriend for more details but has not heard back.
Additionally, Smith was fired from a previous job for verbally attacking an Asian boss, the affidavits allege.
Asian community has been 'nervous, frustrated and angry'
Authorities located Smith's van and kept it under surveillance beginning May 13, according to the affidavits. An officer observed Smith entering the vehicle, noting he matched the physical description of the shooter provided by the victims.
Smith was arrested Monday, read his Miranda warning and, per the affidavits, agreed to speak to police without an attorney present.
He told authorities he was in the area of the shooting at the time, the affidavits say, adding he owned two guns -- a .380 handgun and a .22-caliber rifle "that looks like an AK-47" -- and was the only person with access to his vehicle.
A .380 handgun magazine with four live rounds was found in the suspect's pocket when he was taken into custody.
Authorities also executed a search warrant for Smith's vehicle on Monday and found a Jimenez .380 handgun, an additional gun magazine with four live rounds and a box of Winchester .380 ammunition with six live rounds, the affidavits state.
Dallas officials have condemned the violence, saying hate had no place in the city and offering support for its communities of Asian descent.
"This arrest is a result of the hard work, sacrifice, community support to bring a suspect to justice," Garcia said, "and to ultimately bring peace to this community, who -- rightfully so -- have been nervous, frustrated and angry since this crime has occurred."
The idea the shootings were motivated by hate is "chilling and deeply disturbing," Mayor Eric Johnson said last week.
"I want our city's Asian American community -- which has appallingly faced increasing vitriol in recent years -- to know that the City of Dallas and the people of Dallas stand with them," he said in a statement.