Did Police Say Atlanta Shooting Suspect Had a ‘Bad Day’?

The "bad day" remarks in question came from Capt. Jay Baker with the Cherokee Sheriff’s Office in Canton, Georgia.

  • Published
"Bad day" were words said about the Atlanta shooting suspect by Capt. Jay Baker.
Image via Megan Varner / Stringer

Claim

Cherokee sheriff’s Capt. Jay Baker said that the Georgia massage-parlor shooting suspect had a "bad day."

Rating

Context

The phrase "bad day" came toward the end of a lengthy exchange with reporters in which Baker had attempted to characterize the suspect's motivations and state of mind based on the latter's own statements to investigators. It's unclear whether Baker was quoting/paraphrasing the suspect at that moment, or stating his own opinion.

Origin

On March 17, 2021, the Cherokee Sheriff’s Office held a news conference in the aftermath of the deadly Georgia massage-parlor shootings that left eight people dead. Sheriff’s Capt. Jay Baker, a spokesperson for the department, answered questions from reporters. According to social media users, he purportedly said that Atlanta-area shooting suspect Robert Aaron Long — who faces murder and assault charges after the incident — had had a “bad day.”

We found multiple tweets that claimed Baker said the shooting suspect had a “bad day.” For example, one came from The Atlantic writer Jemele Hill via Vox journalist Aaron Rupar.

The 20-second video received around 10 million views in less than 24 hours.

We found multiple tweets that were shared far and wide that claimed Baker used those words:

We were unable to find the full remarks in context in any reports published by major news organizations. It appeared that most articles published a single sentence uttered by Baker. 

In order to confirm whether the quote was accurate, we turned to a previously live feed of the news conference, provided by the Internet Archive. We also located a Fox 5 Atlanta feed.

We transcribed the comments below with the moment in question being bolded:

Reporter: “Yesterday it was stated that the suspect was perhaps upset at these locations for allowing him to have an outlet for his addiction. Can you elaborate on that?”

Capt. Jay Baker: “Yeah let me go into a little detail. The suspect did take responsibility for the shootings. He said that early on once we began the interviews with him. He claims that these – and as the chief said, this is still early – but he does claim that it was not racially motivated. He apparently has an issue, what he considers a sex addiction, and sees these locations as something that allows him to go to these places, and it’s a temptation for him that he wanted to eliminate. Like I said, it’s still early on. Those were comments that he made.”

Reporter: “Did he discuss any kind religious motivation for this, or was he…”

Baker: “Not that I’m aware of.”

Reporter: “Or political?”

Baker: “None political. I’ve heard nothing about politics.”

Reporter: “Any sense of his social media history? Is that something you’ve been able to look up?”

Baker: “That’s something that investigators, and they’ve been working on it. That’s certainly one of the things they’ll be doing.”

Reporter: “Sheriff, did you have a sense that he understood the gravity of what he did?”

Baker: “When I spoke with investigators, they interviewed him this morning, and they got that impression that, yes, he understood the gravity of it, and he was pretty much fed up and had been at the end of his rope, and yesterday was a really bad day for him, and this is what he did.”

Reporter: “Remorseful?”

Baker: “I’m not going to – I don’t know if he was remorseful or not.”

Reporter: “He’s a pretty young guy. Was he a student? Does he live with his parents?

Baker: “21 years of age. It’s my understanding he does not live with his parents. I don’t know who he was living with at the time of this incident.”

Reporter: “Is he employed?”

Baker: “I’m not aware of that either.”

While Baker did not say the exact words “had a bad day” or “having a bad day,” he did say “yesterday was a really bad day for him,” referring to the Atlanta-area shooting suspect.

The remarks reminded some social media users of past shooting sprees committed by young white men:

However, whether Atlanta-area police or other law enforcement officers would make similar “bad day” remarks about shooting suspects who are people of color is not the focus of this fact check. The claim here is whether Baker said that the shooting suspect had a “bad day,” which we determined to be true.

In order to understand the “bad day” comment, we looked at what was said immediately before and after the moment in question.

In studying the transcribed news conference, Baker appeared to be referring to the purported “sex addiction” that Long was said to have discussed with law enforcement. In the news conference, Baker said the “sex addiction” was “a temptation” that Long “wanted to eliminate.”

“He apparently has an issue, what he considers a sex addiction, and sees these locations as something that allows him to go to these places, and it’s a temptation for him that he wanted to eliminate,” Baker said.

Around 40 seconds after Baker finished the “sex addiction” remarks, he mentioned “bad day”:

Reporter: “Sheriff, did you have a sense that he understood the gravity of what he did?”

Baker: “When I spoke with investigators, they interviewed him this morning, and they got that impression that, yes, he understood the gravity of it, and he was pretty much fed up and had been at the end of his rope, and yesterday was a really bad day for him, and this is what he did.”

It appeared that Baker was saying it was a “bad day” for Long’s “temptation” as it pertained to “sex addiction.”

On the evening of March 17, Baker appeared to delete or disable his Facebook account after social media users discovered it. We previously reported that he had promoted COVID-19-themed T-shirts that read: “Imported Virus from Chy-na.” While the investigation into the massage-parlor killings was ongoing, connections were drawn by social media users and bloggers to the fact that he promoted those shirts, and that six of the eight victims were Asian women.

We reached out to Baker later that same day to receive clarification on his comments, but did not hear back. However, the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office put out a statement on March 18:

In sum, a Georgia sheriff’s spokesman did say that the day of the Atlanta-area killings was for the suspect “a really bad day for him.” The remarks appeared to refer to a “bad day” for the suspect’s “temptation” in regard to a purported “sex addiction.”