ATLANTA (AP) – Two massage companies in the Atlanta area, where a gunman carried out a fatal assault this week, have been repeatedly attacked in police prostitution investigations over the years, raising questions about the mayor’s earlier comments that the spas are legal .

Police records indicate that officials have made repeated visits to the companies over the past 10 years, which appears to contradict Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms’ statement that officials in her city have not and have not been in the companies beyond a minor potential theft The police were “on the radar.” Bottoms added that they did not want to blame the victims.

Robert Aaron Long, 21, has been accused of killing four women in Atlanta spas and four other people in a Cherokee County massage shop about 50 kilometers away. Long, who is white, told investigators the attacks were not racially motivated and claimed to be a sex addict, which resulted in him beating what he saw as a source of temptation.

Atlanta and Cherokee Counties police said they are investigating whether the killings could be considered a hate crime. Seven of the victims were women – six of Asian descent – and the shooter targeted the massage shops despite a strip club and lingerie stores nearby.

According to a 2019 report written by a group of academics, public health experts, and community organizers, workers at massage companies that offer sex illegally often worked there because of limited options, tens of thousands of dollars that they owed smugglers or smugglers to repay parents or children at home in countries like China and South Korea.

The writers of Illegal Massage Parlors in Los Angeles County and New York City Stories of Female Workers interviewed dozens of women offering sex in businesses. They said their employers sometimes offered them a place to live and eat in the companies, which also made it difficult to refuse to work.

The authors emphasized that not all massage companies are involved in the sex trade. And the majority of the women they interviewed and engaged in sex work saw themselves not as trafficking but as a feeling of helping their families or themselves, said author Lois M. Takahashi, who runs the USC Price School of Public Policy in Sacramento directs.

But 40% of them said a client forced them to have sex, while 18% said a client hit or physically injured them.

Takahashi said that being arrested is an extremely traumatic process for many women. Often times, the women were pushed into a legal system they did not understand, in a foreign language.

“They were much more afraid of being arrested than of being robbed,” she said.

Police records released by the city on Friday show that 10 people have been arrested for prostitution in the two massage shops in Atlanta, but have not been arrested since 2013. Almost all of the arrests were undercover, where an officer paid for a massage and an employee offered sex or sex, bargaining for more money. The reports were first received from the Washington Post.

Speaking at a press conference the day after the shootings, Bottoms said, “As far as we know in Atlanta, these are legally operating companies that weren’t on our radar, not on the radar of APD (the Atlanta Police Department).”

A mayor’s spokeswoman said Friday the shootings were an ongoing investigation and she expected new evidence to be discovered.

“What the mayor said was ‘as far as we know’ and that’s the operational part of that ‘as far as we know’ sentence,” said Bottoms spokeswoman Elise Durham. “The comments were made less than 24 hours after the shooting event.”

All three companies that fatally shot people on Tuesday posted detailed reviews on an online site that direct users to places that offer sexual services.

Authorities released the names of the victims in Atlanta hours before President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris arrived in Atlanta to meet with leaders of the Asian American community.

Soon Chung Park, 74; Hyun Jung Grant, 51; and Yong Ae Yue, 63, were shot in the head, the Fulton County Medical Examiner’s Office said. Family members identified Grant by her maiden name, Hyun Jung Kim. Suncha Kim, 69, died of a gunshot to the chest, according to authorities.

Three of the women died at the Gold Spa in Atlanta while the fourth woman died at the Aromatherapy Spa across the street. The coroner did not immediately say which woman had died on aromatherapy.

Four people were killed and a fifth injured at Young’s Asian Massage near Woodstock in the northwest suburbs of Atlanta.

Cherokee County authorities earlier identified the dead as Delaina Ashley Yaun, 33; Paul Andre Michels, 54; Daoyou Feng, 44; and Xiaojie Tan, 49, who owned the Youngs.

The South Korean Foreign Ministry said it helped police identify the four Korean women killed and inform their families. Officials said they would help organize funerals and asked US authorities for a speedy investigation to determine the cause of the shooting amid increasing violence against Asian Americans.

Georgian lawmakers passed a hate crime law last year that provides additional penalties for certain crimes if motivated by the race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender or disability of a victim. A hate crime is not a crime in its own right under the law, but it can be used to add time to punishment once someone is convicted of another crime.

Investigators believe Long previously visited two of the massage shops in Atlanta where four of the women were killed, police said.

The Crabapple First Baptist Church, of which Long was an active member, issued a statement Friday to expel Long from membership. “We can no longer claim that he is truly a born again believer in Jesus Christ.”

The Church said its teaching does not condone violence against Asian Americans or women, and it is inappropriate to view women as being in any way responsible for male sexual urges.

He long waived a first hearing in the Magistrate Court in Cherokee County.


Collins reported from Columbia, South Carolina. Rebecca Santana in New Orleans contributed to this report.