ATLANTA (AP) – Eight people, including many women of Asian descent, died in gunfights at two massage parlors in Atlanta and one in the suburbs on Tuesday evening. A 21-year-old man suspected in the shootings was taken into custody hours later after a manhunt in southwest Georgia, police said.
The attacks began around 5 p.m. when five people were shot dead at Youngs Asian Massage Parlor in a mall near a rural area in Acworth, about 50 kilometers north of Atlanta, Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Capt. Jay Baker. Two people died on the scene and three were taken to hospital, where two of them also died, Baker said.
Nobody was arrested at the scene.
This undated photo, courtesy of the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office, Georgia, shows a person interested in a massage parlor shoot. Several people were killed and others injured in a massage parlor in Cherokee County on Tuesday March 16, 2021. There were also shootings at other massage parlors in Atlanta.(Courtesy Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office via AP)
At around 5:50 p.m. in the Buckhead neighborhood of Atlanta, responding to an ongoing robbery, police found three women who had died from apparent gunshot wounds at the Gold Spa. While they were at this location, they learned of a phone call reporting shots fired at another spa across the street, the Aromatherapy Spa, and found a woman who appeared to have been shot in the shop.
“It seems they can be Asian,” said Rodney Bryant, Atlanta police chief.
The South Korean State Department said in a statement Wednesday that its diplomats in Atlanta confirmed to police that four of the victims were of Korean descent. The department said the office of its consulate general in Atlanta is trying to validate the nationality of the women.
The killings came amid a recent wave of attacks against Asian Americans that coincided with the spread of the coronavirus in the United States.
“Our whole family prays for the victims of this horrific acts of violence,” said Governor Brian Kemp on Twitter on Tuesday evening.
A man suspected in the Acworth shooting was caught on surveillance video that came to the store at around 4:50 p.m. on Tuesday, minutes before the attack, authorities said. Baker said the Woodstock suspect Robert Aaron Long was detained in Crisp County, about 150 miles south of Atlanta.
Baker said they believe Long was also the suspect in the Atlanta shootings.
Police said video footage showed the suspect’s vehicle in the Atlanta Spas area about the time of the attacks. This and other video evidence suggests that it is very likely our suspect is the same as the Cherokee County suspect who is in custody, Atlanta police said in a statement. Atlanta and Cherokee County authorities worked to confirm the link between the cases.
FBI spokesman Kevin Rowson said the agency was assisting the Atlanta and Cherokee Counties with the investigation.
Crisp County Sheriff Billy Hancock said in a video posted on Facebook that his MPs and state forces were informed around 8 p.m. that a murder suspect was headed for their county from northern Georgia. MPs and soldiers lined up along the freeway and “contacted the suspect” who was driving a black Hyundai Tucson around 8:30 pm in 2007, he said.
A state trooper was performing a PIT or Pursuit Intervention Technique maneuver “that caused the vehicle to go out of control,” Hancock said. Long was then detained “without incident” and held in Crisp County Jail for Cherokee County authorities who were expected to arrive soon to continue their investigation.
As a result of the shootings, Atlanta police dispatched officers to check similar stores nearby and increased patrols in the area.
Associate press writer Kim Tong-hyung from Seoul contributed to this story.
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