Asian business community still cautious after arrest in Dallas salon shooting

DALLAS — Asian Trade District employees and business leaders remain on edge three days after Dallas police arrested a man suspected of shooting three women of Korean descent inside a hair salon, worried that any moment could bring another attack.

Joann Roh, who runs Sura Korean Bistro, has been closely watching the mannerisms of diners, especially those with their hands folded in their pockets, while on the lookout for suspicious customers. “We’ve been scared,” said Roh, as patrons this week walked into her Asiana Plaza restaurant, which sits adjacent to the strip mall where last week’s shooting took place.

Jeremey Theron Smith, 36, was arrested this week and has been charged with seven counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

Dallas police have said the salon shooting is being investigated as a hate crime, and officials are investigating whether it could be part of a string of similar incidents in Dallas. Asian businesses have been targeted in three shootings since April 2. Police have said a similar vehicle was used in all of them.

Despite the arrest, some business leaders have renewed calls for extra security measures to further protect Asian Americans in the business district.

The Hair World Salon, left, in Hanmiri Plaza in Dallas.
The Hair World Salon, left, in Hanmiri Plaza in Dallas. Raul Rodriguez for NBC News

“One thing we’re concerned about is possible copycat issues,” Jonas Park, a board member of the Korean Society of Dallas and co-founder of Stop Asian Hate Dallas, told NBC Dallas-Fort Worth.

Caroline Kim, a business leader in the Asian Trade District, felt a sense of relief after the arrest but also called for more patrol units and relationship-building with local law enforcement.

“People who are thinking about perpetrating some type of crime like this need to know this is not a tolerant place for that type of crime to happen,” Kim said.

Dallas police have added patrols to every shift and increased the number of surveillance cameras in the area. However, Dallas City Council Member Omar Narvaez, who represents the area, cautioned that overpolicing could be counterproductive.

“Too much police presence can act as a deterrent,” Narvaez said. “We do want to increase patrols, but not over-patrol to where people think the area is dangerous.” 

A Dallas police cruiser is stationed outside Hair World Spa on May 14, 2022, where a shooter opened fire and injured three Korean women.
A Dallas police cruiser is stationed outside Hair World Spa on May 14, 2022, where a shooter opened fire and injured three Korean women.Raul Rodriguez for NBC News

He said there have been early talks of forming a neighborhood business watch association and that business owners and employees should report suspicious activity.

“We are all on high alert and don’t want this to become a systemic issue,” the council member said.

By Thursday, little evidence of the shooting remained inside the closed Hair World Salon. The once blood-stained floors were mopped clean. And the dried blood on a gray couch had been wiped away.

Laura Kim, a receptionist in the dental office two units away from the salon, lamented recent mass shootings not just in Dallas but in Buffalo, New York; California; and other parts of America.

“It’s just wrong,” said Kim, who moved to Dallas from Korea 30 years ago. “What I wish for is peace and a world where people don’t think they’re better than others.”

More police power would allow business owners and employees to go to work without fear of attacks, said Richard Yu, vice president of the Korean Society of Dallas.

“We still want to see more to keep this from happening in the future,” he said.

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