This undated photo provided by the Cherokee County Sheriff's Office, in Georgia, shows a person of interest in a massage parlor shooting. Several people were killed and others injured at a massage parlor in Cherokee County, Tuesday, March 16, 2021, officials said. Shootings at other massage parlors in Atlanta also occurred.
Caption
This undated photo provided by the Cherokee County Sheriff's Office, in Georgia, shows Robert Aaron Long, 21, of Woodstock, suspected in a massage parlor shooting. Several people were killed and others injured at a massage parlor in Cherokee County, Tuesday, March 16, 2021, officials said. Shootings at other massage parlors in Atlanta also occurred.
Credit: Courtesy of Cherokee County Sheriff's Office via AP

The man charged in the shooting deaths of eight people in three massage parlors Tuesday told officials about a "temptation for him that he wanted to eliminate," and that the killings were not racially motivated.

Of the eight people killed, six were of Asian descent. The other two were white.

Victims identified in the Cherokee County shooting were Ashley Yaun, 33, of Acworth; Paul Andre Michels, 54, of Atlanta; Xiaojie Tan, 49, of Kennesaw; and Daoyou Feng, 44, of an unknown address. A fifth person of Hispanic descent was also injured but was in stable condition Wednesday.

"We believe that he frequented these places and he may have been lashing out," Cherokee County Sheriff Frank Reynolds said during a Wednesday morning news conference.

Robert Aaron Long, 21, of Woodstock was arrested Tuesday night about 150 miles south of Atlanta, in Crisp County, on his way to Florida, where officials believe he may have intended to kill more people.

"He made a comment to that effect," Capt. Jay Baker said during the Cherokee news conference. "That he was headed to Florida and that he was going to do similar acts in that state. It sounds to me like these locations, he sees them as an outlet for him, that something that he shouldn't be doing and that is an issue with porn and that he was attempting to take out that temptation."

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Local Reaction To Massage Parlor Shootings: 'Unspeakable Tragedy'

A 9mm firearm was located in Long's vehicle when he was taken into custody, Baker said, adding that investigators would determine whether the gun was legally obtained.

Long has since been moved to the Cherokee County Adult Detention Center, and has been interviewed by both the Atlanta Police Department and FBI.

"The public as a whole should be grateful that this suspect was quickly apprehended because it is very likely that there would have been more victims," Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said.

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Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms says the spa shooting suspect may have been planning more shootings. 

Credit: Courtesy WSB

The mayor then reminded the media that "We don't know additional information about what his motives were, but we certainly will not begin to blame victims."

"As far as we know in Atlanta, these are legally operating businesses that have not been on our radar," Bottoms said. "Not on the radar of APD."

Atlanta-based human rights activist Kenyette Tisha Barnes told GPB News she first heard about the shootings from a colleague who works with the Asian American community in Atlanta.

"I was mortified," Barnes said, recounting her initial reaction and that of some of the social media postings she encountered.

But almost as quickly as the Cherokee County sheriff office news conference ended, many people objected to the police narrative — that by allowing the killer to frame his alleged motivation downplayed the possibility of a hate crime. And Barnes' was among those voices.

Barnes said the women were undoubtedly targeted based on their race and that the alleged shooter’s fetishization of Asian women is racist.

“We have a difficult time in this society calling out white privilege and white supremacist violence,” she said. “We are socialized to believe that violence comes from the others and that if it does happen to come from white American people — and white American men in particular — then there has to be a mitigating factor there. 

“And in this case, it's sex addiction. Well, you know what? There's a lot of people with sex addictions and they're not killing Asian women, so I don't buy it.”

State leaders continued to react to the tragedy.  Gov. Brian Kemp tweeted his reaction Wednesday morning: "@GAFirstLady and I are heartbroken and disgusted by the heinous shootings that took place last night. We continue to pray for the families and loved ones of the victims. These horrific crimes have no place in Georgia."

Sen. Jon Ossoff said in a statement, "While the motive for last night's terrible violence remains under investigation, I express my love and support for and stand in solidarity with the Asian-American community, which has endured a shocking increase in violence and harassment over the last year.”

Georgia Rep. Bee Nguyen was more forceful.

"This is the result of xenophobic rhetoric" against Asians in America, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, she said.

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State Representative Bee Nguyen issued a call to action to combat hate and violence against Asian Americans at the Capitol on Wednesday. Georgia authorities say the suspect in Tuesday's massage parlor shootings claimed a 'sex addiction' and that he wasn't racially motivated, though six of the eight killed were women of Asian descent.

Credit: From GPB Lawmakers

 

According to the most recent data, hate incidents targeting Asian Americans rose by nearly 150% in 2020 amid the coronavirus pandemic, with Asian American women twice as likely to be targeted.

"We’re calling on our allies across communities of color to stand with us in grief and solidarity against racist violence in all its forms," said Stephanie Cho, the Executive Director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Atlanta. "When our most vulnerable community members are targeted, we all need to band together.”