A Woodstock, Georgia, man is suspected of embarking on arguably one of the most horrific shooting sprees America has seen in recent years. Robert Aaron Long, 21, is accused of fatally shooting eight people—six of whom were Asian women—after firing shots at two Atlanta massage parlors and a third in Acworth, Ga. Long was captured in Crisp County and was taken into custody after leading police officers on a car chase.
The Associated Press reports that around 5 p.m. Tuesday evening, Long allegedly opened fire at Young’s Asian Massage Parlor, which is located in a strip mall in Acworth. Five people were shot. Two of them died at the scene and two more died after being taken to the hospital. The fifth victim survived but there has been no update on his condition. Nearly an hour after that shooting began, a similar shooting left three more dead at Gold Spa in the Buckhead area of Atlanta. Police on the scene—who had responded to a call about a suspected robbery—got another call about shots being fired at Aromatherapy Spa, which is reportedly across the street from Gold Spa. At the third spa, police found one woman dead on the ground inside. None of the victims’ names have been released.
Capt. Jay Baker of the Cherokee Sheriff’s Office told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that “It does appear that it’s the same suspect,” and he confirmed that surveillance footage appears to show that Long was responsible for all three shootings.
Atlanta police spokesman Sgt. John Chafee agreed with Baker’s assessment telling AJC that “it is extremely likely our suspect is the same as Cherokee County’s” based on video evidence.
Because the nation has seen a sharp increase in attacks on Asian-Americans amid the coronavirus pandemic—for which many misguided Americans have blamed the Chinese because of racism and, frankly, the irresponsible rhetoric of our former president—many are speculating that these killings were hate crimes carried out by a white supremacist emboldened by anti-Asian sentiment.
“These murders occurred at a time when anti-Asian violence has been spiking,” U.S. Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) tweeted Tuesday. “All officials should do their part to condemn violence and not inflame further discrimination.”
Still, the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office told WSB-TV 2 that Long has not indicated that the shootings were racially motivated and has only said that he targeted businesses that he had been to before.
In fact, Baker said during a news conference Wednesday that “the suspect did take responsibility for the shootings,” but that “he claims...that it was not racially motivated,” and that “he apparently has an issue with sex addiction,” and sees these locations as places he can go to and “eliminate” his “temptation.”
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms was careful not to jump to any conclusions while commending law enforcement for their swift action in apprehending the suspect and condemning the violence perpetrated by the shooter.
“A motive is still not clear, but a crime against any community is a crime against us all,” Bottoms said in a statement, AJC reports. “I have remained in close contact with the White House and APD as they work with federal, state and local partners to investigate the suspect who is responsible for this senseless violence in our city.”
Speaking of the White House, officials told WSB-TV that President Joe Biden has been briefed on the “horrific” shootings and that White House officials “have been in touch with the Mayor’s office and will remain in touch with the FBI.”
Here’s how Long’s arrest went down as reported by WSB-TV:
The Crisp County Sheriff’s Office said it received information on the suspect’s car and spotted it on Ga. 401/I75 Tuesday evening. The Georgia State Patrol was able to perform a PIT maneuver on the car. Long was arrested without incident and taken to the Crisp County Detention Facility.
Long was extradited back to Cherokee County Wednesday morning. He is expected to be in court Wednesday morning for a first appearance.
While there’s no official word on whether or not the victims were targeted by their race, the New York Police Department’s counterterrorism unit said it is “monitoring the shooting of Asian Americans in Georgia,” and that it “will be deploying assets to our great Asian communities across the city out of an abundance of caution.”