In a statement, the agency said that 17-year-old Asian American Maggie Long was “purposefully set on fire” in her family’s home in Park County, Colorado in 2017.
The agency had initially considered it a “crime of opportunity” as several items were also stolen from her home at the time. Now the FBI says it is investigating it as a bias-motivated incident.
In a statement, the agency said: “The FBI is investigating the murder of Maggie Long as a Hate Crime Matter. A Hate Crime is a criminal offence against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by the individual’s bias against a race, religion, disability, ethnicity/national origin, sexual orientation, gender or gender identity.”
So far, there have not been any arrests in the Long case. The agency had however released composite sketches of three men they believed to be involved in her death in 2017.
One of the sisters of the murdered teenager, Connie Long, told Denver’s CBS Local News: “So to have this be a possibility is a little surprising, but at the same time, in some ways it makes sense.”
The FBI has yet to share any information about what led them to believe that Long’s murder was a hate crime. They have asked the community to come forward with any information related to the individuals or any vehicles seen in or around the vicinity of the property.
On 1 December 2017, the officials say that there was an altercation between Long and her attackers at Long’s Bailey home in Park County. Soon a fire had started at the house. Park County sheriff Tom McGraw said that Long was “purposely set on fire and burned alive.”
Long, a senior at Platte Canyon High School, had returned home to pick up water and cookies for the audience at an evening concert at her school that she had helped organise. When she stepped inside, the men were already present inside her home, investigators say.
The FBI had called it a “crime of opportunity” since a Beretta handgun, an AK-47-style rifle, 2,000 rounds of ammunition, a safe and jade figurines were also stolen from the home.
The news that the death is now being investigated as a possible hate crime comes at a time when the Asian American community has seen growing attacks since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
Another Long sister told CBS Local: “This is an angle that wasn’t looked into in the past, and at this point, there is no stone left unturned. Looking at the extent of violence in this crime, that is certainly an angle to look more closely into.”
The family however told the media that they didn’t otherwise face any discriminatory or racist behaviour in their Park County neighbourhood.
A reward of $75,000 has been offered for any information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible.