The suspect in a string of fatal shootings at Atlanta-area massage parlors was indicted Tuesday on murder charges, and prosecutors signaled they will also seek hate crime charges – something advocates have been pushing since the March slayings rattled the Asian-American community.
Robert Aaron Long was officially indicted by a Fulton County grand jury for the fatal shootings of four people killed at two spas in Atlanta: Suncha Kim, 69; Soon Chung Park, 74; Hyun Jung Grant, 51; and Yong Ae Yue, 63. The indictment does not cover the four others who were killed at another massage parlor in Cherokee County.
The indictment charges Long with four counts of murder, four counts of felony murder, five counts of assault with a deadly weapon, four counts of possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony and one count of domestic terrorism, according to online records.
It will be up to a separate grand jury in Cherokee County to decide on charges in the shooting at a spa near suburban Woodstock in which four were killed and one person was wounded.
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis also filed notice that she intends to seek hate crime charges and the death penalty against Long, who is white. The hate crime charges are based on actual or perceived race, national origin, sex and gender, according to online records.
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Georgia’s new hate crimes law does not provide for a stand-alone hate crime. After a person is convicted of an underlying crime, a jury must determine whether it’s a hate crime, which carries an additional penalty.
After the attack, authorities said Long, 21, claimed his actions were not racially motivated and he frequented some of the spas where the shootings happened. Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Capt. Jay Baker said Long viewed the spas, which are all listed on a prominent illicit massage parlor matching website, as “a temptation that he wanted to eliminate.”
Baker said Long believed there was “some type of porn industry” in Florida that he intended to confront and that he was on his way to the state when he was apprehended.
The killings came amid a wave of attacks against Asian Americans that coincided with the spread of the coronavirus across the United States. Of the eight people killed, six were women of Asian descent. Hate crimes against Asian-Americans have been spiking in recent months, and many advocates pushed for hate crime charges in the case, saying the Asian-American businesses were targeted.
More:A hate crime? Georgia attacks that killed mostly Asian women raise questions of bias, motive
More:Georgia spa shooting suspect, charged with 8 counts of murder, attended rehab for sex addiction
Long had been in rehab for sex addiction and was wracked with guilt about his sexual urges, according to two people who lived with him in transitional housing. He was deeply religious and could not control his desire to visit massage parlors and engage in sexual acts, something that sent him into deep bouts of depression, said Tyler Bayless, who lived with Long for six months in 2019 and 2020.
Contributing: Associated Press