Eight people, including six women of Asian descent, were killed Tuesday after a gunman opened fire at three massage spas in northern Georgia.
Law enforcement officials apprehended Robert Aaron Long, 21, hours after the shootings and he confessed later that night to carrying out the attacks, police said.
During a news conference Wednesday, law enforcement officials said it was “too early” to determine whether the shootings were racially motivated. Long told investigators he had issues with “sexual addiction” and that he targeted the spas to “take out that temptation,” authorities said.
The killings shook Asian American communities across the country amid a surge in racist incidents against Asian American and Pacific Islander people. Asian women were 2.3 times more likely to report being targeted in an incident of anti-Asian racism over the past year, according to a report from Stop AAPI Hate, a national coalition that has been documenting these incidents.
Cherokee County officials released the identities of the five people shot ― four of whom were killed ― shortly after the incident at Young’s Asian Massage, the first spa where Long allegedly opened fire Tuesday. Atlanta officials publicly identified the four female victims of the subsequent shootings at Gold Spa and Aromatherapy Spa on Friday. Three died at Gold Spa, while one was found at Aromatherapy nearby.
Here’s what we know about the victims so far:
Xiaojie “Emily” Tan
Tan, 49, was fatally shot at Young’s Asian Massage in Acworth, a suburb of Atlanta. Public records indicate she owned the spa along with another business, Wang’s Feet & Body Massage, which was located about seven miles away.
Tan was a licensed massage therapist and previously held cosmetology licenses specializing in nails and face treatments, according to public records.
Greg Hynson, a friend and customer, described Tan as a hardworking small business owner. He said her friends called her Emily and that she had an adult daughter who recently graduated from the University of Georgia.
“She was the sweetest person you’d ever meet,” Hynson told USA Today. “My heart was in my throat the second I heard of it. It still doesn’t seem real.”
Hyun Jung Grant
Grant (maiden name Kim), 51, was a single mother with two sons who worked at Gold Spa and lived with her family in Duluth, Georgia, The New York Times reported Friday. She helped her sons with their college tuition and, on days off, liked to take them to the mall or an aquarium, frequently ending up at a Korean restaurant.
One of her sons, Eric Park, 20, described his mother as a young woman at heart.
“All I can think about is her,” Park told the Times. “Looking at the news just gets me mad. That deputy saying the shooter had a bad day — how is that a bad day? To me, it’s a hate crime no matter how it looked.”
Randy Park, Grant’s other son, started a GoFundMe page with information about his mother in hope of raising some money for funeral bills and living costs now that she is gone. (The page has since raised more than 50 times its goal.)
Park wrote that Grant “dedicated her whole life to providing for my brother and I.” He went on: “It is only my brother and I in the United States. The rest of my family is in South Korea and are unable to come. She was one of my best friends and the strongest influence on who we are today. Losing her has put a new lens on my eyes on the amount of hate that exists in our world.”
Yong Ae Yue
Yue, 63, was a licensed massage therapist who was excited about getting back to work at Aromatherapy Spa after being laid off at the start of the pandemic, her sons Robert and Elliott Peterson told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Friday. They described their mother as a warm, kind person who insisted on cooking for guests.
“She feeds all my friends,” Robert, 38, told the outlet.
Yue also spent free time with her dog, a Shih Tzu mix.
She had moved to the United States from Korea in the 1970s after meeting her husband while he was stationed abroad in the Army. The couple divorced in 1982 but stayed close, according to The New York Times.
Soon Chung Park
Park was 74 years old and worked at Gold Spa, her son-in-law Scott Lee told the Times. She moved to the Atlanta area from New York, but stayed close with her family up north.
Park was the oldest victim of the shootings this week.
Kim was 69 years old and had been married for more than 50 years, The New York Times reported, citing a family member who did not wish to be named. She came to the United States from Korea to give her family a better life.
Kim liked to go line dancing in her free time.
“Just a regular American family and worked really hard,” the family member said.
Delaina Ashley Yaun
Yaun, 33, was at Young’s Asian Massage on a date with her husband when she was shot dead. The couple lived together in Acworth and had been married for less than a year. He survived by locking himself in a room during the shooting.
“He’s not OK,” Dane Toole, Yaun’s half sister, told The New York Times. “He’s taking it hard.”
Yaun, who worked as a server at a local Waffle House restaurant, was the mother of a 14-year-old son and an 8-month-old daughter.
“Losing her will permanently affect this family and home,” Yuan’s friend Rose Luce told The Guardian. “I’ve never seen such love in a family the way I see the love Delaina had for hers.”
“Every day she would come home from work and hug her mother and kiss her baby girl with a giant smile on her face,” Luce added. “She adored that beautiful baby girl with every part of her heart.”
Paul Andre Michels
Michels, 54, was fatally shot at Young’s Asian Massage. He was a U.S. Army veteran and had been married for more than two decades, his family members told The Daily Beast.
He owned an electric company and was thinking of getting into the massage business, his younger brother, John Michels, said. Paul Michels was a gun owner, staunch Republican and a baptized Catholic.
“Although this is a tragedy, I forgive that man and so will Jesus Christ,” John Michels said of his brother’s alleged killer. “I cannot hate him for it. I pray for his repentance.”
Feng, 44, was fatally shot at Young’s Asian Massage. Police have not yet said where she lived. She recently began working at the spa, Hynson, Tan’s friend, told USA Today.
Elcias R. Hernandez-Ortiz
Hernandez-Ortiz, 30, was on his way to a money exchange business next to Young’s Asian Massage when he was shot in the parking lot. He survived but remained in critical condition as of Thursday, according to the Times.
His wife, Flor Gonzalez, said he underwent surgery Tuesday night after being wounded in his forehead, throat, lungs and stomach. She told the Times that she reminded Hernandez-Ortiz about their daughter’s upcoming 10th birthday celebration as a form of encouragement.
“I pleaded with him to keep fighting and that he has a family,” she said. “He loves his daughter a lot. He’s always been a dedicated father, very loving.”