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Sheriff’s deputy criticized for comment on shooting suspect, Facebook posts

Captain Jay Baker of the Cherokee County Sheriff's Office spoke during a news conference in Atlanta Wednesday.Nicole Craine

A sheriff’s deputy in Georgia who had been a main conduit for information about the deadly rampage at three Atlanta-area massage businesses is facing criticism for saying that Tuesday “was a really bad day” for the suspect, and for anti-Asian Facebook posts that he made last year.

At a news conference Wednesday, the deputy, Captain Jay Baker, spokesperson for the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office, discussed the frame of mind of the man charged with eight counts of murder in Tuesday’s shootings. He said that the suspect, Robert Aaron Long, 21, of Woodstock, Ga., understood the gravity of his actions when he was interviewed by investigators Wednesday morning.

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“He was pretty much fed up and had been kind of at the end of his rope,” Baker said. “Yesterday was a really bad day for him, and this is what he did.”

The comments were widely panned on social media, with critics characterizing them as callous and pointing to Facebook posts from March 30 and April 2, 2020, in which Baker promoted sales of an anti-Asian T-shirt. The shirt, echoing rhetoric of then-President Trump, referred to the coronavirus as an “imported virus from Chy-na.”

“Place your order while they last,” Baker wrote in one of the posts. He did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

News outlets BuzzFeed and The Daily Beast published articles about Baker’s comments and Facebook posts Wednesday.

Sheriff Frank Reynolds released a statement Thursday acknowledging that some of Baker’s comments stirred “much debate and anger’' and said the agency regrets any “heartache” caused by his words.

The sheriff’s statement did not address the Facebook post that appeared to have been written by Baker promoting the T-shirt with racist language about China and the coronavirus. The post was taken down Wednesday.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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