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Suspect arrested in Dallas salon shooting as FBI opens hate crime investigation

Ilkay Dede / EyeEm/ Getty Images

(DALLAS) -- Dallas police arrested a suspect in connection with the May 11 shooting of three women in a hair salon in the city's Koreatown. The incident is being investigated as a hate crime and could be linked to a series of recent shootings at Asian-run businesses in the city, police said.

The victims, the salon owner, an employee and a customer, are all Korean, according to ABC affiliate station WFAA in Dallas. The women suffered nonfatal injuries and were transported to a local hospital, according to police.

Dallas Police Chief Eddie Garcia identified the suspect as 36-year-old Jeremy Smith during a press conference on Tuesday. Garcia said that Smith was charged with three counts of aggravated assault.

"During our investigation, detectives learned that two years ago Smith had a motor vehicle crash with an Asian male," Garcia said. "Since this crash, Smith has had panic attacks and delusions when he is around anyone of Asian descent."

The Dallas Police Department and the FBI are investigating the incident as a hate crime.

"The Dallas FBI Field Office, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District in Texas and the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice have opened a federal hate crime investigation into the incident at Hair World Salon in Dallas,” a spokesperson for the FBI field office in Dallas told ABC News on Monday. "We are in close communication with Dallas Police and are partnering together to thoroughly investigate this incident. As this is an ongoing investigation, we are not able to comment further at this time."

Police met with community members at a town hall in Koreatown on Monday amid concerns for the public's safety.

Two of the shooting victims – the owner and an employee – were present at the meeting, according to WFAA. The employee spoke with the help of an interpreter and her was face covered. The women did not reveal their names.

Garcia said that police continue to investigate two other shootings that may be linked to the salon shooting.

"At this time, there have been no arrests on those cases," Garcia said, adding that the investigation is ongoing.

The arrest comes days after Garcia announced during a Friday press conference that law enforcement “concluded three recent shootings of Asian run businesses may be connected.” The suspect in each incident was driving a similar vehicle.

Police said they learned from a witness report that an unknown Black male parked in what appeared to be "a dark color minivan-type vehicle" on Royal Lane and then walked across the parking lot and into the establishment, allegedly opening fire as soon as he entered the salon.

Police also released a security image of a maroon minivan they said the shooter fled the scene in.

Garcia said the shooting at the salon might be linked to one that happened a day before and one that took place last month.

Police learned from witness reports that on April 2, a driver in a red minivan drove past a strip mall of Asian-run businesses and fired shots at three businesses. No one was injured.

And on May 10, a suspect in a burgundy van or car drove by and shot into Asian-run businesses near 4849 Sunnyvale Street, police said.

“Out of an abundance of caution, we have reached out to our partners to make them aware of the possible connection and ask for their assistance,” Garcia said. “This includes the FBI and member agencies of the Joint Terrorism Task Force. We are also working with North Texas police partners to determine if this criminal action has or is taking place in their jurisdictions.”

Garcia said police will be increasing the presence of high visibility patrol officers in areas in the city where there are large Asian American populations.

“We are turning to every resident of the city of Dallas to keep an eye out and safeguard our city,” Garcia said. “Hate has no place here.”

These incidents in Dallas come amid a spate of attacks targeting Asian Americans across the nation, which spiked during the COVID-19 pandemic.

ABC News' Bill Hutchinson contributed to this report.

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