CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — Virginia leaders and local members of the Asian American community are reacting to Tuesday’s deadly mass shooting in Atlanta that left eight people dead. Six of the victims were Asian women.

The suspect said the deadly rampage was not racially motivated, according to police.

However, Asian Americans like Eric Lin, vice president of finance for OCA Asian Pacific American Advocates said that does not lessen the fear.

“It was a shock. It was like, oh my gosh, people have been murdered over this,” he told 8News.

Lin, who lives in the Richmond area, said the horrific incident follows an increase in anti-Asian hate he has experienced since the COVID-19 pandemic started.

“As a young boy growing up here, I’ve faced discrimination throughout my life, but it’s reached new levels,” Lin said.

He shared one experience that happened when the pandemic was first beginning. Lin was eating at a restaurant and overheard a conversation at a table next to him.

“He knew I was sitting there, it was pretty obvious, but he was talking very loudly and talking about how the virus comes from China and it make sense because the Chinese are so dirty,” Lin said.

Afterwards, he approached the man and had a conversation with him. “We had a, not heated conversation, but a pointed conversation,” Lin explained.

A recent report from the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism found that hate crimes against Asian Americans in 16 major cities spiked in 2020 by nearly 150 percent compared to 2019.

Another report released Tuesday by Stop APPI Hate reports nearly 3,800 incidents of discrimination against Asian Americans from March 2020 to February 2021.

Lin believes many more incidents go unreported. He did not report what happened to him at the restaurant last year.

“Even someone like me, who’s an advocate for the community, can push that down and not think about it. I think it’s happening a lot,” he said.

Talking to communities about how to report these incidents is something he said OCA is working on. He told 8News the organization is also reaching out to Asian American businesses.

“There’s many massage parlors here, we have nail shops, we have restaurants, so we’re trying to find ways to get them information and resources they need to help them feel better about it,” said Lin.

He said allies can help by stepping in if they ever experience anti-Asian hate. “OCA has developed these situational awareness trainings, so if you are a victim or you see something happening, you know what to do,” he said.

Henrico County Commonwealth’s Attorney Shannon Taylor released a joint statement with Henrico Police Chief Eric English Thursday following the Atlanta spa shootings.

“This hatred, racism, and violence must stop,” said Henrico County Commonwealth’s Attorney Shannon Taylor. “The shootings in Atlanta were just the most recent example of hatred run amok. This week, the Anti-Defamation League published a report showing the exponential growth of white supremacy in this country.” 

“Hate and prejudice must not be tolerated and will not be in our community. We are dedicated and committed to protecting people from bigotry and discrimination and preventing violence.

“We know, and are proud, of our diversity and that our Asian-American brothers and sisters are part of what makes Henrico thrive and succeed.”

“Henrico Police stands in solidarity with every member of our community,” said Henrico County Chief of Police, Eric English. “As a law enforcement agency, our duty is to protect the public and ensure justice is served fairly and equitably. 

“While no hate crimes have been reported in Henrico against a member of our Asian community since 2019, we must stay vigilant. Everyone has a role to play in public safety and we encourage every community member to contact police if you have knowledge of or suspect a crime of any kind.”

Taylor told 8News the Asian American and Pacific Islander community makes up a large percentage of the county and hate will not be tolerated.

“When one of those communities is particularly targeted, it is the responsibility of the public safety officials and locality to be able to speak up and speak out for those citizens,” Taylor said.

Gov. Ralph Northam also responded to Tuesday’s mass shooting in the following statement Wednesday.

“We are grieving with the Asian American community and all of the victims of the horrific shootings in Atlanta last night that took eight lives, six of whom were women of Asian descent. This is the latest in a series of heinous attacks against Asian Americans across this nation, but sadly these are not isolated events. Since the start of the pandemic, we have seen a disturbing rise in inflammatory and xenophobic rhetoric, harassment, and violence against Asian American communities.

“Hate and bigotry have no place in our Commonwealth or country. We all have a responsibility to condemn these racist acts and make clear that this is not who we are as Virginians, or as Americans.

“We will continue to ensure that Virginia is a place where all people are welcome and our diversity is celebrated. We stand in solidarity with members of the Asian American community and those facing discrimination, hate incidents, fear, and intimidation. We must do everything in our power to make their safety a priority and to stand against all forms of injustice.”

Gov. Ralph Northam