(DENVER) — The death of 17-year-old Maggie Long, an Asian American woman, is now being investigated as a hate crime, according to the Denver Federal Bureau of Investigation.
"The FBI is committed to combating hate crimes and condemns violence directed toward any individual or group. We are grateful for the community's support of Maggie's family and their patience with the ongoing investigation," Denver FBI Special Agent in Charge Michael Schneider said in a statement to ABC News. "The FBI continues to work with the Park County Sheriff's Office and the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, and we ask anyone who has information about this murder to contact the FBI immediately.”
The FBI would not say what bias the suspects may have had. A hate crime is defined as a traditional criminal offense that includes an element of bias against a "race, religion, disability, ethnicity/national origin, sexual orientation, gender or gender identity," according to the FBI.
The update to the investigation comes as anti-Asian crimes are on the rise across the U.S. According to a study from the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino, reported anti-Asian hate crimes rose by nearly 150% in major U.S. cities from 2019 to 2020.
In December 2017, Park County Sheriff's Office deputies were dispatched to a house fire in Bailey, Colorado, at approximately 7 p.m. According to the FBI, a 911 caller reported that people were causing damage inside the residence.
When the fire was extinguished, Long's remains were discovered inside the home. The El Paso County Coroner's Office later ruled her death a homicide, the FBI said.
An ongoing investigation by the FBI found that a physical altercation had taken place between Long and the suspects before the fire was ignited. According to the sheriff, his investigation is looking for three suspects.
The FBI said that the suspects stole a Beretta handgun, an AK-47-style rifle, 2,000 rounds of ammunition, a green safe and jade figurines from the home.
No arrests have been made, but together, the FBI and the Long family have collected a $75,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible.
Park County Sheriff Tom McGraw said that he hopes the new investigation from the FBI can help the local efforts to solve the crime, with more manpower and funding on hand.
"It's very important to recognize that a little bit of information could evolve into something pretty large," McGraw told ABC News. "It's still being very actively worked, and we have high hopes."
The FBI is asking that anyone with information on the case call the FBI at 1-800-CALL-FBI or or contact the Colorado Bureau of Investigation Tipline at 303-239-4243.
"Helpful information could include descriptions of individuals or vehicles seen in/around the vicinity of the property, individuals with demonstrated knowledge of what happened at the Long residence on the day of Maggie's murder," the FBI said in a statement.