A Georgia man charged with murder and assault after the fatal shooting of eight people, including six Asian women, at spas near Atlanta said he had problems with sexual addiction and may not have been motivated by racial hatred the authorities announced on Wednesday. Tuesday’s killings have heightened fears in U.S. Asian-American communities that have been the target of some attacks since the coronavirus pandemic broke out a year ago. It was also the most recent gun violence in the United States, with numerous deaths.
The 21-year-old suspect, Robert Aaron Long, has been charged with four murders and one serious assault, the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office said. Long was held in the county about 40 miles north of Atlanta, Georgia’s capital. Officials said Long said he may have visited the spas where the violence took place on Tuesday, although authorities could not immediately confirm whether he visited any of them. Long was on his way to Florida when he was arrested, possibly to conduct more shootings, authorities said.
“The suspect took responsibility for the shooting,” said Captain Jay Baker of the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Department at a news conference. “He sees these places as his starting point, something he shouldn’t be doing,” said Baker. “It is a temptation for him that he wanted to remove.”
Long lived in Woodstock, Georgia, and attended Crabapple First Baptist Church in Milton, a suburb of Atlanta. A mug shot of Long released by the authorities showed a white man with a long and shaggy brown beard. It was not clear if the suspect was visiting spas for sex.
“This is an ongoing investigation and we are currently unable to answer any questions about any of the companies or services any of these locations offered during or prior to this incident,” Atlanta Police Department officer CJ Johnson said in a statement. The US authorities tried to determine whether the attacks were inspired by an anti-immigrant or anti-Asian motivation or a personal complaint.
US President Joe Biden said he was briefed on the shootings by the US Attorney General and FBI director. “The question of motivation has yet to be clarified,” Biden told reporters at the White House. “But whatever the motivation here, I know Asian Americans are very concerned.”
A report from the Center for Hate and Extremism Studies earlier this month showed that hate crimes against Asian American citizens increased 149% in 16 major US cities from 2019 to 2020. During this time, hate crimes decreased by 7% overall. Advocacy group Stop AAPI Hate said the surge appeared to be due to Asians and Americans from Asia being blamed for the China-originated pandemic. Former President Donald Trump called the novel coronavirus the “China virus”, the “China plague” or even the “kung flu”.
‘LIVING WITH FEAR’ “A lot of the unknown is known, but one thing is clear: the Asian-American community has lived with fear of racism for a year,” lawyer John Yang, who served in former President Barack Obama’s administration, published on Tuesday evening on Twitter. “These murders will add to that fear.”
The bloodshed began around 5 p.m. Tuesday when four people were killed and another wounded at Young’s Asian massage in Cherokee County, Baker said. Two women of Asian descent were among the dead there, along with a white woman and a white man, Baker said. The surviving victim was a Spanish man. In Atlanta, police officers responding to a “robbery” phone call shortly before 6:00 pm arrived at the Gold Spa beauty salon and found three women shot dead, Police Chief Rodney Bryant told reporters.
While investigating the first report, officers were called to a separate spa across the street where another woman was found dead, Bryant said. All four women killed in Atlanta were of Asian descent. Long was discovered in South Georgia, far from the crime scenes, after Cherokee County police issued a bulletin. He was arrested without incident after a highway chase, police officers said.
His indictment is scheduled for Thursday, they said. Long’s quick concern was aided by his family’s cooperation with law enforcement agencies and surveillance cameras filing of the suspect at the locations of the shootings, police said.
“We are very grateful for the family. Without them it would not have happened as quickly as it happened. They have been very supportive,” said Baker. The killings were the latest in a string of mass shootings in schools, cinemas, medical clinics, and other public places across the United States over the past few decades.
Gun control is a controversial issue in the United States that enshrines the right to bear arms in the constitution. The US House of Representatives approved two gun control bills last week when Democrats gripped a changing political landscape that they said had improved the chances of new legislation being passed after years of failed attempts. “We are witnessing the results of what happens when racist and misogynist ideologies collide in a society where there is easy access to weapons,” Amnesty International USA said in a statement.
(This story was not edited by Devdiscourse staff and is automatically generated from a syndicated feed.)