A Black man whose girlfriend says he suffered from delusions about Asian Americans is in custody, accused of opening fire inside Hair World Salon in the heart of Dallas' Koreatown earlier this month and injuring three Asian women. Police have said the shooting may have been a hate crime.
Before dawn Tuesday, police tweeted that a suspect was being interviewed and processed but offered no other immediate information until an arrest warrant was released Tuesday afternoon.
SUSPECT IN DALLAS SALON SHOOTING IDENTIFIED
Just before 11 a.m., NBC 5 obtained an arrest warrant affidavit identifying 36-year-old Jeremy Theron Smith as the suspect in the shooting at the salon.
Dallas Police Chief Eddie Garcia confirmed the arrest Tuesday afternoon, saying Smith was taken into custody on unrelated charges and brought in for questioning.
Smith was taken into custody Monday night and agreed to speak with detectives without an attorney.
Police said Smith told them was in the area of the Royal Lane salon around the time of the shooting on May 11 while looking for a business that could replace a broken pane of glass from a garage door.
Police said someone wearing all black got out of a maroon minivan, walked through the parking lot to the salon and fired 13 shots from a .22 caliber rifle. Police said seven casings were found inside the business and another six were found outside. Three women were shot and were injured in the forearm, foot and lower back. All were hospitalized and are now recovering after having been discharged.
Police said Smith admitted the red Honda Odyssey was his and that he was the only one with a key and access to the vehicle. He also told police he owns two guns, a .380 handgun and a .22 caliber rifle.
During an interview with police, a .380 handgun magazine with four live rounds was found in his pocket and a .380 handgun was found in the minivan along with 10 more live rounds.
Dallas police released surveillance camera images of the shooter, seen wearing all black and holding a large firearm, as well as the maroon minivan they believe he drove to the salon.
Garcia said investigators found that a similar vehicle was reported to be involved in two other recent shootings at businesses run by Asian Americans, including an April 2 drive-by in the area where the salon is located. No one was injured in either of those shootings.
Smith was booked into the Dallas County Jail Tuesday and is facing three charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. He is being held on bonds totaling $300,000. It's not clear if he's obtained an attorney.
GIRLFRIEND SAYS MAN ACCUSED IN SALON SHOOTING HAD ASIAN DELUSIONS
According to the arrest document, Smith's girlfriend told police he was involved in a crash with an Asian driver a couple of years ago and that since that time "has had near panic attacks when he is around anyone of Asian descent." She added that he had been admitted to health care facilities after "having delusions that the Asian mob is after him or attempting to harm him."
The woman said he had also been fired from a job after verbally attacking an Asian boss.
Dallas police said last week that the salon shooting may be related to two other shootings targeting Asian-owned businesses. No injuries were reported in those two incidents.
Garcia said Tuesday afternoon that more investigation needs to be done in those cases before charges are filed.
SUSPECT ARRESTED MONDAY WHILE WORKING A LANDSCAPING JOB
NBC 5 has learned Smith was arrested Monday while working a landscaping job in DeSoto.
The homeowner, Charles Allen, told NBC 5 that Smith had been doing yard work and clearing out weeds at his home for a couple of days when two black vehicles with darkened windows pulled up outside of his home Monday afternoon.
Allen, an Air Force veteran who is in a wheelchair, said several armed people jumped out of the vehicles in front of him and were yelling for everyone to get on the ground.
After police cuffed Smith and turned him on his stomach, the homeowner said, "You gotta be kidding me, is this some kind of movie or something? I know you're not after this little guy."
Smith’s bond was set at $100,000 for each of the 3 aggravated assault charges he currently faces.
VICTIMS RECOVERING AFTER DALLAS SALON SHOOTING
The three women shot in the attack have all since been released from the hospital.
The daughter of one of the injured women, Janet Bae, said her mother told her that the man, whom she didn’t recognize, calmly walked in, opened fire and left.
"He was calm. He just walked up to it and then stood there -- didn't walk around -- but stood there and shot like 20 shots and then just calmly went out," said Bae, who wasn't there but had spoken with her mother.
The salon is in the heart of Koreatown, which is a part of the city transformed in the 1980s from an industrial area to a thriving district with shopping, dining, markets, medical offices and salons.
“The possibility that we are dealing with a violent gunman who is motivated by hate is chilling and deeply disturbing,” Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson said in a statement Friday.
Security measures have also been expanded to other areas with Asian-owned businesses and churches in North Texas in the wake of the shootings.
FBI OPENS FEDERAL HATE CRIME INVESTIGATION
Representatives from the FBI Dallas field office attended a community meeting Tuesday night and confirmed the agency has opened a federal hate crimes investigation into the shooting.
The federal investigation is being conducted along with prosecutors in Texas and the U.S. Department of Justice's civil rights division.
Dallas FBI spokeswoman Melinda Urbina said agents are working with city police "to thoroughly investigate this incident" but that she couldn't provide further information because the probe is ongoing.
DALLAS SHOOTING AMONG RECENT STRING OF ATTACKS APPARENTLY TARGETING ETHNIC GROUPS
The shooting in Dallas occurred a few days before a white gunman killed 10 Black people Saturday at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, and a gunman who authorities said was motivated by political hatred for Taiwan killed one person and wounded five Sunday at a southern California church where mostly elderly Taiwanese parishioners had gathered.
Anti-Asian violence has risen sharply in recent years. Last year, six women of Asian descent were among the eight killed in a shooting at massage businesses in and near Atlanta, heightening anger and fear among Asian Americans.
COMMUNITY ON EDGE
Jonas Park with the Korean Society of Dallas said the arrest does not remove fear for Asian residents.
“While we are elated, obviously this isn’t a single incident. One thing we are concerned about is copycat issues and how much police protection we will be getting after this,” Park said. “Although tragedy sometimes brings people together, our goal is keeping people together and doing something about it.”
Park said many Asian community members stopped calling police for small issues because officers do not respond.
He said more Dallas Police involvement is needed in the Asian community.
Dallas Chief Eddie Garcia and Northwest Dallas City Council Member Omar Narvaez pledged to support a better crime prevention relationship.
“But we also have to be careful not to over police the area and scare people who want to do business there thinking this is a dangerous area because there are so many people officers out there,” Narvaez said.
Chief Garcia said the investigation will continue and Smith could be charged with additional shootings at Asian businesses where a vehicle like his was seen.
He said hate should have no place in Dallas.
“The reality of it is, unfortunately, there are many sectors of our community in the beautifully diverse city of Dallas that can be affected. As we have seen nationally through the years, a lot of our communities are at risk,” Garcia said.