Eight people, mostly women, were killed in three shootings within an hour of one another at spas in Atlanta on Tuesday night. A 21-year-old suspect is in custody.
Six victims are Asian, four of them of Korean ethnicity, and two are white. The killings followed a recent wave of attacks against Asian Americans that coincided with the spread of the coronavirus across the United States.
Georgia law enforcement officials say it’s too early in the investigation to determine if the shootings constitute a hate crime, but they have not ruled it out.
Officials say the suspect, Robert Aaron Long, of Woodstock, Georgia, told them the acts were not racially motivated. Long told them he has a sexual addiction and frequently visited spas and wanted to eliminate them as a source of temptation. Authorities say they believe Long acted alone.
FBI Director Christopher Wray told NPR on Thursday that the investigation continues but said, “at the moment it does not appear that the motive was racially motivated.”
However, Grace Kao, an expert on Asian American studies and the sociology department chair at Yale University, told USA TODAY it’s hard to disentangle race from the killings.
Cherokee County authorities charged Long with four counts of murder and one count of assault on Wednesday. He’s expected to face additional charges in Atlanta.
Police arrested Long on his way to Florida, where, he told police, he intended to do “more acts.” He is being held at the Cherokee County Adult Detention Center. He waived his right to an initial court appearance on Thursday.
The shootings and arrest took place in a three-hour period. Police made the arrest 150 miles from the shooting sites.
Here is what happened Tuesday:
YOUNG’S ASIAN MASSAGE | Acworth, Georgia
Police find five people shot at the spa. Two are dead inside and two others die later at a hospital. A fifth victim, a man, remains hospitalized in stable condition.
The spa is in a commercial area about 30 miles north of Atlanta.
GOLD MASSAGE SPA | Atlanta
Atlanta police find three women shot dead inside the spa, located about 27 miles south of the first shooting.
AROMATHERAPY SPA | Atlanta
Police at Gold Massage Spa receive reports of shots fired at a third spa across the street. They find one woman fatally shot.
Police recover video images of a suspect from surveillance cameras of nearby businesses. Police post them on social media and are contacted by members of the suspect’s family.
The family gives police the suspect’s mobile phone number and police begin tracking his movements. The highway patrol monitors Interstate 75.
I-75, about 150 miles south of Atlanta
Georgia State Patrol and deputies from Crisp County are alerted that the suspect is traveling south on I-75 in a black 2007 Hyundai Tucson.
They use a PIT maneuver – a Precision Immobilization Technique in which an officer bumps the rear of a vehicle to force it off the road – to stop the suspect.
The suspect is arrested without further incident. A 9mm firearm is found inside the vehicle.
One method police officers can use to slow and stop a fleeing vehicle in a high-speed chase is called the PIT (aka Pursuit Intervention Technique) maneuver. Here’s how it works:
Young’s Asian Massage Parlor
- Delaina Ashley Yaun, 33, Acworth, Georgia
- Paul Andre Michels, 54, Atlanta
- Xiaojie Tan, 49, Kennesaw, Georgia
- Daoyou Feng, 44
- Elcias R. Hernandez-Ortiz, 30, Acworth, Georgia (wounded)
Gold Massage Spa and Aromatherapy Spa
- Soon C. Park, 74
- Hyun J. Grant, 51
- Suncha Kim, 69
- Yong A. Yue, 63
SOURCE USA TODAY Network reporting and research; Associated Press; maps4news.com
More: Georgia killings increase fear of hate crimes.