Democrats in Cherokee County Georgia are hosting a vigil at 6 p.m. for some of those killed during three mass shootings in metro Atlanta Tuesday. GPB’s Ellen Eldridge reports.

candlelight vigil banner

Cherokee County Democrats will host a candlelight vigil Thursday to honor the lives of Delaina Ashley Yaun, Paul Andre Michels, Xiaojie Tan, and Daoyou Feng who were shot and killed in Acworth on Tuesday, March 16.

Credit: Facebook

The Cherokee County Democrats group is hosting a candlelight vigil at 6 p.m. to honor the lives of Delaina Ashley Yaun, Paul Andre Michels, Xiaojie Tan and Daoyou Feng, who were shot and killed Tuesday at Young's Asian Massage in Acworth.

The organization's chair, Brittany Bengert, said she lives, figuratively, in the backyard of Young's Asian Massage. That's where 21-year-old Robert Aaron Long allegedly shot and killed four people earlier this week before driving to Asian-run spas in Atlanta and allegedly killing four more people.

President Joe Biden issued a proclamation for U.S. flags on federal buildings to be lowered to half-staff through sunset Monday to mark the massacre, saying he ordered the flags lowered "as a mark of respect for the victims of the senseless acts of violence."

Bengert said her reaction to a shooting so close to her home was deep. Her husband, who is of Japanese descent, saw the police cars race past him as he returned home from work.

"I always have a visceral reaction when people are targeted for crime," Bengert said. "I recognize the distinct privilege I have that, up until the other day, it did not include somebody under my roof that's in my immediate family."

While Bengert and her husband may not have been victims of racism, the most recent data show 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.”


The Democrat group worked with other organizations across the state, and Bengert said the organization spoke with Fair Fight Georgia.

That's how we learned the Asian Americans Advancing Justice - Atlanta taking donations to support the families of those that were murdered," she said. "And that's who we're going to uplift tonight and encourage people should they have the means to donate to help these families."

While Bengert said she doesn't know for sure how many people will show up at 6 p.m., she plans to say a few words without focusing on partisan issues. 

"It's not about politics," she said. "We just happen to be an organization that is in the community because our members live all over the county. So, of course, we are going to stand in solidarity when something like this happens to our neighbors."

One of those neighbors killed Tuesday was the owner of Young’s Asian Massage, 49-year-old Xiaojie Tan of Kennesaw. She organized her business as an LLC in 2016, according to the secretary of state’s office. Records show she held cosmetology licenses and was board certified as a massage therapist in 2016.

Delaina Yaun of Acworth was also murdered Tuesday at the parlor. She leaves behind a 19-year-old brother, Kevin Smith, who is currently watching over his sister’s 1- and 13-year-old children. Smith is a member of the Cherokee High School JROTC, which is helping collect donations via GoFundMe.

The 30-year-old Acworth man shot in the parlor's parking lot is Elcias R. Hernandez-Ortiz, whose wife set up a GoFundMe in which she said, “He was shot in the forehead down to his lungs and into his stomach.” 

The fourth person killed Tuesday at Young's Asian Massage was 44-year-old Daoyou Feng.