ATLANTA — Investigators are poring over the reason why a gunman opened fireplace on Atlanta-area spas, killing mostly women of Asian descent in at the very least two therapeutic massage parlors he frequented, authorities mentioned Thursday.
Robert Aaron Long, 21, of Woodstock, Georgia, waived his proper to an preliminary court docket look in Cherokee County on Thursday. Police on Wednesday mentioned it was too quickly to decide whether or not the shootings had been a hate crime however mentioned Long indicated he dedicated the shootings due to a intercourse addition, something former roommates said he’d been treated for and struggled with in the past.
Long instructed investigators he attacked the spas as a result of he wished to “eliminate” the temptation to feed his sexual compulsion. He faces 4 murder expenses in connection to shootings at two spas in northeast Atlanta, in addition to 4 murder expenses and one rely of assault in connection to a capturing at third spa in Cherokee County.
Authorities say Long opened fireplace at Young’s Asian Massage in Acworth on Tuesday night, killing 4 folks and injuring a fifth, earlier than driving 30 miles into Atlanta and killing 4 extra folks at two companies, Gold Spa and Aromatherapy Spa. Long was arrested about 150 miles south of Atlanta. Police mentioned Wednesday he was heading to Florida and supposed to perform extra shootings as spas there.
The shootings got here amid a recent wave of attacks against Asian Americans that coincided with the spread of the coronavirus throughout the United States.
More particulars on the newest information within the Atlanta spa shootings:
►President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris will meet with Asian American leaders in Atlanta on Friday.
►Details are starting to emerge about who the victims of the shootings had been and the lives they lived. Cherokee County authorities have launched the names of the 4 folks killed and one injured there, whereas Atlanta police have but to determine the 4 victims there.
►While the spas the place the shootings occurred weren’t on Atlanta police’s radar, in accordance to Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, there have been red flags that the businesses provided illicit services.
►Cherokee County Sheriff Frank Reynolds mentioned Long could have frequented among the spas the place the shootings occurred. Cherokee County sheriff’s Capt. Jay Baker mentioned Long instructed police he “was attempting to take out that temptation” tied to a possible intercourse habit.
►Baker was facing criticism after he described the gunman as having a “bad day” and a Facebook publish showing to be from his account shared a photograph of a racist T-shirt about China and the coronavirus.
Scroll down and refresh this web page for the newest updates from the USA TODAY Network. For updates to your inbox, sign up for the Daily Briefing newsletter.
- Suspect ‘frequented’ Atlanta spas earlier than assault; 4 victims nonetheless not ID’d
- Who had been the victims?
- 100 gather at rally near crime scene
- Historic congressional hearing on Asian discrimination turns emotional
- Biden, Harris to meet with Asian American leaders in Atlanta on Friday
- Suspect waives right to first court appearance
- Audio from Atlanta 911 calls launched
- Suspect bought a gun similar day as capturing
- Suspect attended rehab for intercourse habit
- What do we all know in regards to the spas?
- Were the assaults concentrating on folks of Asian descent?
- Where to donate, how to help Asian communities
Atlanta police held a information convention Thursday afternoon, providing new particulars that the suspect frequented the 2 spa places within the metropolis that he is accused of concentrating on.
“I can say that he had frequented both of those locations,” deputy police Chief Charles Hampton Jr. mentioned of Gold Spa and the Aromatherapy Spa, the 2 spas that grew to become crime scenes Tuesday.
Hampton mentioned authorities are nonetheless investigating the motive and added he could not say whether or not Long “specifically targeted” victims at these places.
Atlanta police have but to formally launch the identities of the 4 victims who died on the two spas. Hampton mentioned the Fulton County Medical Examiner’s Office recognized three of the 4 victims and he hopes to launch their names quickly.
“I was hoping we would be able to release the names of the victims, but we are not able to do that at this time,” Hampton mentioned on the information convention. “We need to make sure that we have a true verification of their identities. And then, that we made the proper next the kin notification.”
Seven ladies and one man had been killed within the string of assaults, the vast majority of whom had been of Asian descent.
Those killed within the Atlanta shootings haven’t been recognized, however police mentioned all 4 had been Asian ladies.
At Young’s Asian Massage in Cherokee County, the victims had been Delaina Ashley Yaun, 33, of Acworth; Paul Andre Michels, 54, of Atlanta; Xiaojie Tan, 49, of Kennesaw; and Daoyou Feng, 44. A 30-year-old Hispanic man was injured.
Xiaojie “Emily” Tan was listed because the proprietor of a restricted legal responsibility company related to Young’s Asian Massage and one other spa.
Tan emigrated to the United States from China a few years in the past, and had an grownup daughter who lately graduated from the University of Georgia, mentioned good friend and buyer Greg Hynson.
“She was the sweetest person you’d ever meet,” said Hynson, who had been treated by Tan for about six years for a stiff neck. “My heart was in my throat the second I heard of it. It still doesn’t seem real.”
Yaun leaves behind a 13-year-old son and 8-month-old daughter. Her mother, Margaret Rushing, told WAGA-TV, that her daughter and son-in-law went to the spa on a date. When the shooting happened, Yaun’s husband locked himself in a room and wasn’t injured, said Yan’s half-sister, Dana Toole.
“He’s taking it hard,” Toole mentioned. “He was there. He heard the gunshots and everything. You can’t escape that when you’re in a room and gunshots are flying – what do you do?”
Paul Michels, who also died at the spa in Acworth, owned an alarm company in Atlanta, where he and his wife, Bonnie, have lived 26 years, his brother John said.
He believes his brother was “simply within the improper place on the improper time.” They grew up with nine siblings in Detriot, riding dirt bikes and spending summer weekends at a lake and getting into mischief together, he said. They both served in the U.S. Army at the same time and his brother served as an infantryman in the late 1980s.
The lone shooting victim who survived the attack, Elcias Hernandez-Ortiz, is hospitalized in intensive care.
His wife, Flor Gonzalez, said in an interview Thursday that he is currently intubated and due to have surgery as early as next week to remove the bullet in his abdomen.
Gonzalez said her husband, a Guatemalan immigrant, was on the way to a business next door to the massage parlor, where he sends money to family back home. He called her as the shooting was unfolding.
“They shot me, they shot me, come help me please,” she said Hernandez-Ortiz supplicated. Those were the last words Gonzalez has been able to hear from him, she said on the verge of tears.Guatemalan authorities on Thursday issued a statement, saying the consulate general in Atlanta was in contact with hospital officials and Hernandez-Ortiz’s family, checking on his medical condition and offering assistance. Read more about those who were killed here.
– Trevor Hughes, Romina Ruiz, Dennis Wagner, John Bacon and Christal Hayes
100 gather at rally near crime scene
Atlanta residents on Thursday mourned Asian-American victims Thursday night, showing up at Aromatherapy Spa and Gold Spa, adding flowers and poster-sized inspirational quotes to growing tribute areas.
Satya Vatti was an organizer for an evening rally of nearly 100 people in the Gold Spa parking lot — located across the street from Aromatherapy Spa. Vatti said she is angry that law enforcement officials have moved slowly to not only categorize the murders as a hate crime, but determine Long was targeting Asian women.
“Eight individuals are useless,” she mentioned. “How can that not be a hate crime? He specifically targeted and sought out Asian workers. It doesn’t get much more clear than that.”
As vehicles drove by the busy thoroughfare, sometimes honking, visitors paused near the massage spa entrances, somber, confused, angry and scared. Some kneeled, eyes closed, praying and sobbing. Others yelled into bullhorns.
— Gary Estwick
A historic hearing Thursday on anti-Asian violence and discrimination, Congress’ first on the issue in more than 30 years, turned emotional as lawmakers gave emotional pleas to end the use of divisive language just days after the spa shootings in Atlanta left the Asian-American community rattled.
“Our community is bleeding. We are in pain. And for the last year, we’ve been screaming out for help,” Rep. Grace Meng, D-N.Y., said, noting the continued pleas throughout the pandemic and rise in hate crimes targeting the Asian community.
‘We will not let you take our voice from us’: Rep. Meng responds to Republicans at hearing on anti-Asian discrimination
Responding to Republican lawmakers’ arguments that the focus on hate crimes could hamper free speech Meng told lawmakers they could criticize other countries but “you don’t have to do it by putting a bull’s-eye on the back of Asian Americans across the county, on our grandparents, on our kids.”
Getting visibly emotional, Meng said “this hearing was to address the hurt and pain of our community, to find solutions. And we will not let you take our voice from us”
Earlier in the hearing, Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, asked whether the committee’s attempts to prevent hate crimes and hate incidents against Asian Americans would hamper free speech.
“It seems to want to venture into the policing of rhetoric in a free society,” he said of the hearing, though he said he opposed hate crimes and wanted justice to be served for the perpetrator of the shooting in Atlanta that left eight people dead, six of whom were Asian or Asian American.
– Nicholas Wu
President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris plan to meet with Asian American leaders during their Friday visit to Atlanta.
The White House confirmed the meeting, first reported by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, which comes as Asian Americans – already facing increasing discrimination amid the coronavirus pandemic – have been rattled by the spa attacks.
Biden and Harris will meet with Georgia state legislators and Asian American and Pacific Islander advocates, according to the White House, to listen to their perspective on the rise in hate incidents targeting Asian Americans.
The trip to Atlanta was arranged before the shootings for the president to tout benefits of his recently approved $1.9 trill COVID-19 relief bill, the American Rescue Plan.
– Joey Garrison
Visual timeline:What happened at Atlanta spa shootings
Long’s initial court appearance scheduled Thursday was canceled after he waived his right to the hearing, the Cherokee County district attorney’s office and Long’s attorney’ confirmed to USA TODAY.
“At this time, there are no other court hearings scheduled,” Cyndi Crossland, a public information officer for District Attorney Shannon Wallace, said.
J. Daran Burns, an attorney appointed as Long’s defense, said he had met with Long in the Cherokee County Adult Detention Center on Wednesday.
“Our firm has been in Cherokee County for 25 years, and when tragedy happens in our community, we feel it. Our condolences are with the victims and their families. We are working on behalf of our client, Robert Aaron Long, to investigate the facts and circumstances surrounding this incident,” Burns mentioned in an announcement.
“Everybody is doing their jobs, both law enforcement and the District Attorney’s Office. Now, our firm will conduct a thorough investigation on our client’s behalf.”
Police on Wednesday launched audio from the 911 calls on the Atlanta spas.
In one of many calls, a girl at Gold Spa instructed the operator that there was a theft ongoing. She mentioned a white man had a gun and that she was hiding.
During the second name, a girl mentioned she was not at Aromatherapy Spa however that her good friend who was there referred to as her. She mentioned her good friend was hiding in a again room after man shot a girl.
Cherokee County sheriff’s Capt. Jay Baker mentioned a 9mm firearm was recovered from Long’s automobile.
On Tuesday, the identical day of the assaults, Long bought a firearm from Big Woods Goods, a sporting good story in Cherokee County. Matt Kilgo, the store’s legal professional, mentioned his purchasers are “fully cooperating” with police.
“Everything they have will be turned over,” Kilgo mentioned.
During an interview with Atlanta police, Cherokee County sheriff’s deputies and FBI officers, Long mentioned his actions weren’t racially motivated, Reynolds mentioned.
“He apparently has an issue, what he considers a sex addiction, and sees these locations as something that allows him to go to these places, and it’s a temptation for him that he wanted to eliminate,” Baker mentioned.
Long had been in rehab for intercourse habit and felt guilty about his sexual urges, in accordance to two individuals who lived with him in transitional housing.
Baker mentioned Long believed there was “some type of porn industry” in Florida that he supposed to confront and that he was on his approach to the state when he was apprehended.
Authorities mentioned the one police report on file with the Cherokee Sheriff’s Office mentioning Long was from 2019 when the then-19-year-old ran off along with his girlfriend and was reported lacking by his dad and mom. “Their son sent them a text stating he was not returning home and wanted a fresh start,” the report states.
– Will Carless
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms mentioned that the Atlanta spas weren’t on police’s radar: “As far as we know in Atlanta, these are legally operating businesses,” she mentioned.
But early indicators point out the companies could not have been completely above-board, leaving the ladies working there significantly weak to abuse and violence. All three spas are listed on an erotic overview website that enables customers to seek for and overview illicit therapeutic massage parlors.
Aromatherapy Spa and Gold Spa have round 100 opinions, many latest. A overview for Gold Spa on March 9 indicated that it was “full service,” as did an identical overview from 5 days prior. A overview for Aromatherapy Spa on March 2 additionally indicated intercourse was on the service record. Young’s Asian Massage in Acworth, Georgia, has 39 opinions, the newest posted in February.
One of the eight victims, Xiaojie Tan, was listed because the proprietor of a restricted legal responsibility company related to Young’s Asian Massage. The LLC additionally owns Wang’s Feet & Body Massage, a spa in neighboring Kennesaw additionally listed on the overview website.
The opinions, coupled with promoting for 24-hour providers, are crimson flags, mentioned Elizabeth Kim, the chief working officer of Restore NYC, a nonprofit that works to present housing and financial options for survivors of trafficking.
Local police mentioned Wednesday that it was too quickly to inform whether or not the killings on the therapeutic massage parlors were a hate crime. But Yale University Sociology Department chair Grace Kao, an skilled on Asian American research, mentioned it was onerous to disentangle race from the killings.
The shooter had focused Asian American ladies, and given how “Asian American women have been viewed as exotic and feminine objects in U.S. mass media and suspected of prostitution from the earliest U.S. immigration restrictions,” the suspect might simply have seen Asian American ladies in the identical method, she mentioned.
“If you talk to the average Asian American woman, most of us have been subject to varying degrees of sexual harassment that targets our gender and racial identities,” Kao mentioned. “They do not exist separately in the lives of individuals.”
Georgia state Rep. Bee Nguyen mentioned the shootings seem to be on the “intersection of gender-based violence, misogyny and xenophobia.”
Vice President Kamala Harris, the primary African American and South Asian American girl to be elected vice chairman, referred to as the incident “tragic.”
“The investigation is ongoing, we don’t yet know, we’re not yet clear about the motive. But I do want to say to our Asian American community that we stand with you and understand how this has frightened and shocked and outraged all people.”
Rep. Judy Chu, D-Calif., the chairwoman of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, mentioned the “crimes are beyond terrifying, but it just brings home to so many Asian Americans that they are fearful of their lives and circumstances” as they confronted each the COVID-19 pandemic and the rise in hate incidents.
She mentioned her group of lawmakers met with the Department of Justice to focus on a nationwide rise in hate incidents and “we are right now determining actions against AAPI hate.” She referred to as for the passage of laws to enhance hate crime reporting and in addition for the institution of a nationwide day to converse out in opposition to anti-Asian American hate on March 26.
Additionally, Baker, the Cherokee County sheriff spokesperson, confronted criticism Wednesday after a Facebook web page showing to belong to him promoted a T-shirt with racist language about China and the coronavirus final yr. Baker additionally drew scrutiny for saying Long was having a “bad day” when he carried out the shootings.
Stop AAPI Hate, a gaggle that tracks acts of discrimination and xenophobia in opposition to Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, discovered that round 3,800 incidents of hate, discrimination or assaults on Asian Americans occurred from March 2020 by February 2021. You can donate to that cause here.
New anti-hate crime legislation is about to be launched in each chambers of Congress, following government orders from President Joe Biden addressing the assaults.
Several GoFundMe fundraisers have been began for the victims and for the Asian American group — the location has began a hub of verifiable fundraisers.
There are extra methods you can help be an ally, together with studying up on the historical past of anti-Asian racism and what to do for those who see anti-Asian racism.
Contributing: Nicholas Wu, Dennis Wagner, Cara Kelly and Joey Garrison, USA TODAY; The Associated Press