Police on Tuesday arrested a man suspected of opening fire at three massage spas in northern Georgia hours earlier, killing eight people, including six women of Asian descent.
Robert Aaron Long, 21, of Woodstock, Georgia, was apprehended by law enforcement officials while driving to Florida, where he may have planned to carry out additional attacks, authorities said Wednesday during a news conference. Police recovered a 9 mm handgun during the traffic stop.
“This could have been significantly worse,” Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said during the news conference. “It is very likely that there would have been more victims.”
Law enforcement officials said Long appears to have acted alone and that it was “too early” to determine whether the shootings were racially motivated.
Long told investigators he has “sexual addiction” issues and targeted the spas in an attempt to “take out that temptation,” Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Capt. Jay Baker said Wednesday.
“They interviewed him this morning and they got that impression that ... he understood the gravity of it,” Baker said. “He was pretty much fed up and kind of at the end of his rope, and yesterday was a really bad day for him and this is what he did.”
Watch the full news conference below:
The rampage began just before 5 p.m. Tuesday at Young’s Asian Massage near Acworth, about 40 miles north of Atlanta. Two people were shot and killed inside the business, and two others died after being taken to a hospital. One other person was injured in the attack. Two of those killed were Asian women.
Authorities on Wednesday identified those killed as Delaina Ashley Yaun, 33, of Acworth; Paul Andre Michels, 54, of Atlanta; Xiaojie Tan, 49, of Kennesaw; and Daoyou Feng, 44. The person injured was identified as Elcias R. Hernandez-Ortiz, 30, of Acworth.
About an hour after the shooting at Young’s Asian Massage, police officers responded to a call of a “robbery in progress” at Gold Spa in Atlanta. When they arrived, they found three women had been fatally shot. The officers were then called to Aromatherapy Spa across the street, where another woman was found dead. All four victims were Asian.
Officials have not yet released the names of the Atlanta victims.
South Korea’s foreign ministry told NBC News that four of the women who died Tuesday were of Korean descent, but their nationalities have yet to be verified.
“I want to mention the attacks that happened just a few hours ago in Atlanta, in which several women were killed, including, we believe, four women of Korean descent,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters Wednesday morning. “We are horrified by this violence, which has no place in America or anywhere.”
Surveillance video shows the shooter pulling up to Young’s Asian Massage in Acworth at about 4:50 p.m., according to The Associated Press.
Interim Atlanta Police Chief Rodney Bryant told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that it was about 5:45 p.m. when the four people were found dead at the two businesses on Atlanta’s Piedmont Avenue.
The Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office shared photos of the suspect captured by surveillance footage. Long’s parents saw the photos soon after and identified him to police, Baker said Wednesday.
Long was charged Wednesday with eight counts of murder and one count of aggravated assault, The Washington Post and The New York Times reported. He is being held without bond at Cherokee County Detention Center, the sheriff’s office said in a statement Wednesday.
Homicides are relatively uncommon in Cherokee County, where the first shooting occurred, according to the AJC. The sheriff’s office had investigated just one in 2020 and one in 2019.
The FBI is assisting with the investigation, officials confirmed Wednesday.
President Joe Biden was briefed overnight about the shootings, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement Wednesday. “White House officials have been in touch with the Mayor’s office and will remain in touch with the FBI,” she said.
Bottoms commended law enforcement for their “quick work” in arresting Long.
“A motive is still not clear, but a crime against any community is a crime against us all,” Bottoms said in a statement Wednesday. “My prayers are with the families and friends of the victims whose lives were cut short by these shootings.”
In just over a year, there have been an estimated 3,795 reports of racist incidents, including harassment and attacks, against Asian American and Pacific Islander people. The COVID-19 pandemic led to people inflaming hatred toward Asians simply because the virus originated in China.
A collective of AAPI advocacy organizations and scholars known as Stop AAPI Hate compiled the data, which includes at least 503 incidents between Jan. 1 and Feb. 28 this year.
The group found that Asian women were 2.3 times more likely to report being targeted in an incident of anti-Asian racism over the past year. And throughout history, Asian women have been fetishized and hypersexualized.
Stop AAPI Hate said Tuesday that, although there were still no concrete details about the attack, the country has seen a “documented pattern of recent attacks against our community.”
“This latest attack will only exacerbate the fear and pain that the Asian American community continues to endure,” Stop AAPI Hate said in a statement. “Not enough has been done to protect Asian Americans from heightened levels of hate, discrimination and violence. Concrete action must be taken now. Anything else is unacceptable.”
Liza Hearon and Marina Fang contributed to this report.