Posted by News Express | 18 March 2021 | 804 times
The man who police say went on a rampage at three spas in the Atlanta area, killing eight people, was charged on Wednesday with eight counts of murder in connection with the attacks.
The brazen shootings, which took the lives of six women of Asian descent, stirred considerable outrage and fear in the Asian-American community. Investigators said they had not ruled out bias as a motivating factor even as the suspect denied such racial animus once in custody.
The gunman told the police that he had a “sexual addiction” and had carried out the shootings at the massage parlors to eliminate his “temptation,” the authorities said on Wednesday. He also said that he had frequented massage parlors in the past and launched the attacks as a form of vengeance. All but one of the victims were women, the police said.
Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms of Atlanta said that regardless of the determination about motive, the tragedy was clear.
“Whatever the motivation was for this guy, we know that the majority of the victims were Asian,” Ms. Bottoms said. “We also know that this is an issue that is happening across the country. It is unacceptable, it is hateful and it has to stop.”
The authorities charged Robert Aaron Long, 21, on Wednesday with eight counts of murder and one count of aggravated assault in connection with the shootings. Four of the murder counts and the assault charge stem from the first shooting, in Cherokee County, and the other four murder counts relate to the shootings at two spas in the City of Atlanta less than an hour later, the authorities said.
Capt. Jay Baker of the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office said the gunman had told the police he was driving to Florida when he was caught after the shootings on Tuesday evening, and that he said he may have been trying to commit similar violence at a business connected to the “porn industry” there. He was stopped after his parents alerted the police that they believed their son might be the suspect, and the police were able to track his phone.
Sheriff Frank Reynolds of Cherokee County said the gunman may have “frequented these places in the past and may have been lashing out.”
The police arrested Mr. Long, of Cherokee County, who is white, about 150 miles south of Atlanta after a manhunt, the authorities said. They had earlier released a surveillance image of a suspect near a Hyundai Tucson outside one of the massage parlors. Mr. Baker said Mr. Long had admitted to the shootings and that he appeared to be acting alone.
Rodney Bryant, the acting chief of the Atlanta Police Department, said it was not yet clear whether the shooting spree would be classified as a hate crime.
“We are still early in this investigation, so we cannot make that determination at this moment,” Chief Bryant said. “We are just not there as of yet.”
A Justice Department official said on Wednesday that Attorney General Merrick B. Garland was briefed on the shooting, and the department would likely have more to say on the matter later that day.
Four people died in the first shooting, at Young’s Asian Massage near Acworth, a northwest suburb of Atlanta, Mr. Baker said. That shooting, in which a Hispanic man was injured, was reported around 5 p.m.
At 5:47 p.m., the Atlanta police said, officers responded to a robbery at Gold Spa in the northeast part of the city, where they found the bodies of three women with gunshot wounds. While the officers were at the scene, the police said, they received a report of shots fired at the Aromatherapy Spa across the street, where they found the body of another woman.
A 911 caller who said she was hiding in the back of Gold Spa told the emergency operator that a “white guy” had a gun, according to audio recordings released by the Atlanta Police Department.
She was not sure where the gunman was, she told the operator, because she was hiding, and was unsure what he was wearing. “I don’t know,” she pleaded in response to questions. “Please just come.” (New York Times)
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