Biden Calls Attacks on Asian Americans 'Troublesome,' Doesn't Connect Them to Atlanta Shootings

President Joe Biden condemned brutality against Asian Americans but said he wouldn't make a connection when it comes to the motivation of the suspect accused of killing eight people in Georgia.

"Whatever the motivation here, I know that Asian Americans are very concerned, because, as you know, I was speaking about brutality against Asian Americans for the past couple of months," Biden said in the Oval Office on Wednesday.

He continued, "I think it is very, very troublesome, but I am making no connection at this moment to the motivation of the killer. I am waiting for an answer, as the investigation proceeds, from the FBI and from the Justice Department."

Eight people, including six Asian women, were shot dead at three spas in the Atlanta area on Tuesday evening. A suspect is in custody, authorities said. Robert Aaron Long, 21, was apprehended about 150 miles south of the city around 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday.

Police have not yet determined a motive in the shootings. Long has been charged with four counts of murder and one count of aggravated assault, according to the Cherokee County Sheriff's Office.

Cherokee County Sheriff Frank Reynolds said during a press conference Wednesday that Long has "made indicators that he has some issues, potentially sexual addiction, and may have frequented some of these places in the past."

Atlanta Police Chief Rodney Bryant said Wednesday that investigators are not ready to say yet whether the shootings are being considered a hate crime.

"We are still early in this investigation, so we cannot make that determination at this moment," Bryant said at a press conference. He added, "I know that that's going to be a concern and that you're probably asking that of many of us. We're just not there, as of yet."

But the shooting came amid a national surge of attacks against Asian Americans. Research released from Stop AAPI Hate on Tuesday showed nearly 3,800 anti-Asian hate incidents were reported over the course of a year since the coronavirus pandemic began.

Advocacy organizations and public officials, including former President Barack Obama, have taken to social media to condemn the violence and demand action on the rise of racially motivated attacks.

Vice President Kamala Harris, the first South Asian, Black and female vice president, expressed solidarity on Wednesday and extended her prayers to the families of those killed.

Harris noted that while a motive has not yet been determined, "I do want to say to our Asian American community that we stand with you and understand how this has frightened and shocked and outraged all people. But knowing the increasing level of hate crime against our Asian American brothers and sisters, we also want to speak out in solidarity with them and acknowledge that none of us should ever be silent in the face of any form of hate."

Joe Biden Oval Office 3/17/2021
President Joe Biden takes part in a virtual bilateral meeting with Irish Prime Minister Micheál Martin in the Oval Office on March 17. Biden addressed the shootings that took place in Atlanta on Tuesday. Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images