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AAPI support critical to healing six months after Atlanta spa shooting, according to family

AAPI Crime Victims and Education fund aims to raise money nationally for those affected

ATLANTA — Memorials no longer mark the scenes of tragedy in Cherokee County and Atlanta. Six months ago, eight people were killed by a gunman targeting three spas. Six of the victims were Asian women. 

The healing process continues for the victims' families. Back in March, Randy Park lost his mother, Hyun Jung Grant. Park's brother, Eric, depended on support from the community to move forward. An online fundraiser collected nearly $3 million, and now, the AAPI Crime Victims and Education Fund is going national. 

The fund, the first of its kind and created days after the spa shootings, aims to raise $1 million for Asian-American victims of racially motivated crime nationwide. While the spa shootings have not been confirmed as racially motivated, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis has said she plans to pursue hate crime charges in the four murders at two Atlanta spas. 

"Without a doubt, it’ll make a substantial difference," Park said. "I don’t like to think about where we’d be if it weren’t for the funds we got. With all the help we’ve gotten, we can basically build a life for ourselves that [our mother] wanted, which ultimately came at the cost of her own.”

RELATED: Fulton County District Attorney speaks after spa shooting suspect appears in court

According to the FBI, hate crimes are currently at a 10-year high. Former U.S. Attorney BJay Pak co-chairs the AAPI Crime Victims and Education Fund. He said discrimination against Asian-Americans has been prevalent since the 1980s and has reached new heights since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

"We thought about the root cause of the discrimination and these types of acts, and it’s really about stereotypes and the view that we’re foreigners," Pak said. “We wanted to do something to help those victims all around the country and educate, have money to educate and build communities and connections between the AAPI community and law enforcement and other institutions.”

Pak, who also represents families of two spa shooting victims, said the fund had already raised about $100,000 with help from corporate donors. He thanked people from the Latino and Black communities and other minorities for raising awareness and supporting the cause of educating people about bias and discrimination. 

RELATED: 'Our loved ones will never be forgotten' | Families of spa shooting victims give impact statements

“It takes all of us to raise the dialogue to talk about racial issues and stereotypes, how to breach and break that so that we can move on, and all of us respect every one of us as individuals and as Americans," Pak said. 

The spa shooter, Robert Aaron Long, previously pleaded guilty to four charges of murder in Cherokee County. A judge sentenced him to life without parole. He still faces execution in Fulton County if he's convicted of murdering four others in Atlanta.

"Justice for me would just be seeing all the families move on and live a life that those who passed would have wanted them to live with or without them," Park said. “Grieving and mourning is a process, and ultimately it will never end. But you can’t have it eat up your whole life. You can’t live in misery. In my opinion, it would be a huge shame to those who worked so hard for you.”