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Shooting Attacks on Asian American Businesses Leave Employees Worried and Customers Worried

DALLAS — Shooting attacks on Asian American businesses in this city’s historic Koreatown have left employees scared, customers hesitant to return and led to calls for police to step up security to reduce hate crimes.

Since the first attack early last month, employees who make a living here and customers who regularly shop here have wondered what’s next.

They found out last week when a spate of drive-by shootings peaked after a gunman walked into the Hair World Salon at Hanmiri Plaza and opened fire.

Three Korean women were injured in what Dallas Police Chief Eddie Garcia is now calling, contrary to previous comments, a hate crime investigation.

“This area hasn’t been safe for the past few weeks,” said Jannett Temples, 21, a worker at Nuri Grill, a restaurant in the Asiana Plaza mall adjacent to where two of the three recent shootings took place.

Jannett Temples, a 21-year-old customer and worker, returns to Asiana Plaza near Hair World Salon on Sunday.Raul Rodriguez for NBC News

The other shoot took place on April 2 about 20 miles from Dallas at the China Wok. The suspect in all three shootings remains at large but was described as a black man driving a burgundy or dark red van.

Temples said the seemingly random nature of the attacks and personal safety have been the subject of much discussion among friends and colleagues, some of whom are afraid to work.

“There should be more police security,” Temples said, adding that she was worried about leaving her shift after dark.

The barber shop attack recalled other recent acts of anti-Asian violence, including a shooting last year in Atlanta that claimed the lives of eight people, including six Asian women.

On Sunday, one person was killed and five others injured in a shooting at a gathering of Asian worshipers in southern California, authorities said.

A recent study by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University Santa Barbara showed a 339% increase in anti-Asian violence from 2020 to 2021.

Some Dallas shoppers said the threat of being shot forced them to patronize businesses outside of the Korean Historic District, even if they weren’t Asian American businesses, while others promised to be more careful there.

“I’ll definitely keep an eye out,” Joan Villanueva, 35, of Dallas said of the next time he buys soup or sushi at the supermarket.

“I love this Korea-based region. I would hate for it to become a target of prejudice,” he said.

Shooting Attacks on Asian American Businesses Leave Employees Worried and Customers Worried
Damage apparently caused by stray bullets at Hair World Salon last week.Raul Rodriguez for NBC News

Danielle Nicholson, 25, who was using her computer at a cafe in the square on Sunday, said she wanted police to increase patrol units and respond more quickly to reduce the threat of hate crimes in the shopping district.

“Increasing police presence and faster response times in Koreatown would help, but there’s no guarantee it will deter someone with a gun from coming here and committing a crime,” said Nicholson, who plans to continue to eat and shop in the area.

The Dallas Police Department said it would add more patrol units and trailers equipped with security cameras in areas with Asian American communities as part of an effort to boost security.

The Korea Historic District is a collection of small businesses, strip malls, and plazas along a one-mile stretch of Royal Lane in North Texas. Supermarkets, plush cafes, chiropractors and doctors’ surgeries dominate the neighborhood. But the shootings may have kept some customers away for good.

“I will never come back here. That’s what I’m telling you,” said Ahmad, an Asiana Plaza customer who declined to give his last name. “It makes me nervous. I will never stay here again. I’m not about to get shot.

Ung Kim, 46, a resident of Fort Worth, disputed that Garcia called the shooting a possible hate crime, fearing it could lead to more violence against Asian Americans.

“Even if that’s what you’re investigating, why post it?” said Kim. “I mean, if there’s an immediate danger to the community, then, yeah, make an announcement. But it’s going to put people in fear.”

Inside the closed hair salon where last week’s shooting took place, dark red blood stained the hardwood floor. It was as if a bullet had pierced a glass mirror across the room. There were more traces of the shooting.

Shooting Attacks on Asian American Businesses Leave Employees Worried and Customers Worried
A pool of dried blood can be seen through the glass inside the Hair World Salon on Royal Lane in Dallas.Raul Rodriguez for NBC News

Dried blood settled on the gray sofa near the front door where the suspect entered before firing several bullets. Magazines and notebooks on a small table were spattered with blood.

Only a few cars filled the parking lot at Hanmiri Plaza, where the shooting took place, over the weekend. Only two of the six stores were open.

Massage Royal employees declined to comment when asked about the impact the two shootings had on the business and on them personally. There were no customers at the other open business, Han’s Korean Cuisine.

“If I was a customer and a restaurant got shot, I wouldn’t want to go there,” said a restaurant employee, who declined to be named. He said business had slowed because of the shooting, but was expected to reopen despite security concerns.

“What are we going to do? I need the income. Is someone going to pay me to close? worker mentioned. “Of course, I’m nervous. Everyone is nervous.

Shooting Attacks on Asian American Businesses Leave Employees Worried and Customers Worried
Tom Ye is a cook in his twenties at a nearby restaurant in Asiana Plaza.Raul Rodriguez for NBC News

Binh Pham, owner of Pho Saigon #8, a Vietnamese restaurant inside Asiana Plaza, is not one of them.

“I feel safe,” he said on Sunday.

And Tom Ye, a cook at Nuri Grill, said he didn’t think the area was exceptionally dangerous.

“I’ve lived in more dangerous places,” he says.

In Carrollton, a Dallas suburb with an Asian population of more than 15%, some residents said police had to go the extra mile to protect them. They talked about increasing patrols not just in the shopping district, but everywhere else Asian Americans live and congregate. Still, they acknowledged, that might not be enough to prevent future hate crimes.

There’s no straight answer to the question of how the police can stop a hate crime because they can’t change the mindset of someone who intentionally wants to commit one, Jayden said. Jang, 42, who was visiting an electronics store in the mall where the shooting occurred. Local law enforcement took action to protect the Asian community in light of the shooting.

Shooting Attacks on Asian American Businesses Leave Employees Worried and Customers Worried
Hair World Salon remained closed on Sunday.Raul Rodriguez for NBC News

Young Park, 52, said officers conducted an unexpected check on his Sunday morning church service in Carrollton following the shooting at a barber shop.

“Four cops came to my church this morning while we were doing the service,” she said, adding that officers made sure the church was secure and inspected the parking lot for vandalism.

Carrollton police provided additional security at several Korean-owned churches and businesses on Sunday, according to NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth.

Kim, the shopper who will pay more attention to his surroundings the next time he visits the shopping district, said he wants world peace but also understands that the world is not perfect. “Why can’t we all get along?” he said.

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