Federal and local investigators "have so far not found evidence" of a federal hate crime in the Atlanta spa tragedy in which eight people — including six Asian women — were massacred
What are the details?
Despite the narrative that widely circulated in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy, the Associated Press reported that investigators working the case cannot find definitive evidence that clears the federal standard of a hate crime.
From the AP:
Though investigators have not ruled out ultimately filing hate crime charges, they face legal constraints in doing so. Federal statutes require prosecutors to prove that the victims were targeted because of specific factors, like race, gender identity, religion, national origin or sexual orientation, or the suspect infringed on a federally or constitutionally protected activity. To successfully prosecute a hate crimes case, prosecutors typically seek tangible evidence, such as the suspect expressing racism in text messages, in internet posts or to witnesses.
No such evidence has yet surfaced in the Georgia probe, according to the officials, who have direct knowledge of the investigation...
NBC News corroborated the AP's reporting.
In fact, the local U.S. attorney in Atlanta has not directed the FBI's Atlanta field office to open a preliminary federal hate crime investigation, yet another indication there is insufficient evidence for a hate crime.
"So far, no directive has been given, the officials said, because after probing electronic devices and conducting interviews, investigators have seen no evidence leading in that direction," NBC News reported.
Still, the FBI said it may pursue federal hate crime charges if investigators uncover evidence indicating the killer targeted the victims because of their race.
"If, in the course of the local investigations, information comes to light of a potential federal violation, the FBI is prepared to investigate," Kevin Rowson, a spokesman for the Atlanta's FBI office, told NBC News.
Georgia officials, however, have stated that state hate crime charges remain possible.
What about the motive?
While the investigation remains in the introductory stages, law enforcement revealed the alleged killer admitted he had a "sexual addiction" and targeted the spa businesses because they were a "temptation for him that he wanted to eliminate."
"It sounds to me like these locations, he sees them as an outlet for him, that something that he shouldn't be doing and that is an issue with porn and that he was attempting to take out that temptation," Cherokee County Sheriff's Office spokesman Capt. Jay Baker said.
Baker has since been removed from the case after outrage when he said the killer was just having a "really bad day" when he massacred eight people.