DENVER (AP) — The FBI has revealed that it is now investigating the 2017 death of an Asian-American teen in Colorado as a possible hate crime.
The federal agency said in a statement Monday to KCNC-TV that it was probing the death of Maggie Long a “hate crime matter.”
Long’s death was ruled a homicide and authorities later released composite sketches of at least three men they were believed involved in her death. No arrests have been made.
The FBI did not provide any information about why agents are looking at the possibility of a hate crime and did not immediately respond to telephone and email messages from The Associated Press on Tuesday seeking comment.
Long’s body was found inside her family’s home in December 2017 in Bailey, a mountain community about 45 miles (72 kilometers) southwest of Denver, after a fire broke out there following a report of a disturbance.
Investigators believe there was altercation between Long, 17, and her assailants before the fire started. Park County Sheriff Tom McGraw has said that Long was “purposely set on fire and burned alive.”
A Beretta handgun, an AK-47-style rifle, 2,000 rounds of ammunition, a green safe and jade figurines were stolen from the home, authorities have said.
The FBI’s investigation of Long’s death as a hate crime comes amid a reported rise in anti-Asian violence around the nation after the coronavirus entered the U.S. after surfacing in China.
Long’s sisters, Lynna and Connie Long, said they did not notice any overt Asian discrimination when they lived in the community.
Lynna Long said she hoped the shift in the investigation’s focus would encourage people to reconsider interactions they may have had around the time her sister was killed and if anyone expressed bias toward Asian-Americans.
“This is an angle that wasn’t looked into in the past, and at this point it is no stone left unturned. Looking at the extent of violence in this crime, that is certainly an angle to look more closely into,” she said.