A man appeared in surveillance footage outside one of three spas where shootings occurred in northeast Atlanta and in Woodstock, Cherokee County, Georgia, helping investigators to tie the crimes together. The suspect has been identified as Robert Aaron Long, who was arrested in the hours after the shooting. At least eight people have died in three separate shootings in the Atlanta area, and six of them were Asian. Officials were investigating whether racism was a motive in the shootings, but he told authorities he was motivated by a sexual addiction, officials said in a press conference.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution identified the four deceased as Delaina Ashley Yaun, 33, Xiaojie Yan, 49, Daoyou Feng, 44, and Paul Andre Michels, 54. The fifth victim, who was taken to the hospital, was a 30-year-old Hispanic man, Elcias Hernandez-Ortiz.
The photo of the suspect was released from a massage parlor in the Atlanta suburb of Woodstock, which occurred earlier in the day on Tuesday, March 16, 2021. In Atlanta, two shootings occurred within minutes at two separate spas across the street from one another about an hour after the Woodstock shooting. Atlanta Police were in discussions with the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office about the shootings and working to determine whether one shooter or multiple shooters was involved, they said during a brief press conference. They later said it was “extremely likely” the same suspect – Long – was the shooter at all three locations. Read more about him here.
The Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office said the suspect was driving a black Hyundai, and released his license plate number. A license plate reader in Atlanta also tied him to the area of the two additional shooting scenes. Long was arrested in Crisp County, about 200 miles south, following a police chase. The FBI is also involved with the investigation.
Here’s what you need to know:
Four People Were Killed & One Other Person Was Injured at Young’s Asian Massage Parlor in Cherokee County
The Cherokee County shooting occurred near Georgia Highway 92 at Young’s Asian Massage Parlor shortly before 5 p.m. Four people were killed and one was injured. Deputies alleged Long, 21, of Woodstock entered the massage parlor and opened fire before fleeing in a black Hyundai.
Jay Baker of the Cherokee County Sheriff’s office told 11 Alive News only one homicide occurred in all of 2020 and in all of 2019. He called the shooting “shocking.”
“In 2020, we had one homicide in Cherokee County, so, we’ve had three today, so it’s pretty shocking not only to our responding deputies and public safety, but also to the community here. And we take this very serious,” Baker said.
The victims’ names have not been released.
Crisp County Sheriff Billy Hancock described Long’s apprehension during a press conference shortly after he was taken into custody. Georgia State Patrol and the Crisp County Sheriff’s Office received a tip at about 8 p.m. that Long was driving down the interstate and headed into the county. Troopers and deputies stationed along the interstate and contacted Long at about 8:30 p.m. Law enforcement performed a pursuit-intervention technique, or PIT maneuver, to stop the vehicle, “which caused the vehicle to spin out of control.”
“The suspect was taken into custody without incident at mile marker 93 in Crisp County, and transported to the Crisp County Jail,” Hancock said.
He said law enforcement investigating the shootings in northern Georgia, including the FBI, would be reporting to Crisp County “to continue this investigation.”
The Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office celebrated the arrest in a brief Facebook post.
“Shooting suspect in custody!” they wrote.
About One Hour After the Cherokee County Shooting, a Gunman Shot Another 4 People at 2 Other Locations
Police allege Long opened fire at two additional locations in northern Atlanta about one hour after the Cherokee County shooting.
Atlanta Police Department’s interim Chief Rodney Bryant said during a press conference that all four victims were female and appeared to be Asian. Officers are increasing patrols at other Asian spas and checking in at similar facilities in the area. He said officers were called to Gold Spa at about 6 p.m. and found three women dead. Shortly after arriving on the scene, they received another call to Aromatherapy Spa for a report of shots fired.
Channel 2 News reported officers with guns were along the street outside the spas, and crime scene tape could be seen wrapping around both the Aromatherapy Spa and Gold Spa on the 1900 block of Piedmont Road.
Piedmont Road was shut down in both directions near Cheshire Bridge Road due to heavy police activity.
A “shots fired” call came into 911 just before 6 p.m., a spokesperson for the Atlanta Police Department said in a press conference. Responding officers found two crime scenes in the 1900 block of Piedmont Road near the intersection of Cheshire Bridge Road, just south of Interstate 85.
Although the initial call in Atlanta was for a robbery, police said nothing was taken and ruled out robbery as a motive. They are investigating whether the shooting was a hate crime, according to 11 Alive News.
“Many have asked whether these shootings are related to Cherokee County’s shootings,” Atlanta Police Department wrote in a press release early Wednesday morning. “Video footage from our Video Integration Center places the Cherokee County suspect’s vehicle in the area, around the time of our Piedmont Road shootings. That, along with video evidence viewed by investigators, suggests it is extremely likely our suspect is the same as Cherokee County’s, who is in custody. Because of this, an investigator from APD is in Cherokee County and we are working closely with them to confirm with certainty our cases are related.”
Stop AAPI Hate, a coalition organized to combat anti-Asian racism during the COVID-19 pandemic, said in a statement that the shootings impact the entire Asian community.
“The reported shootings of Asian American women on Tuesday in Atlanta is an unspeakable tragedy – for the families of the victims first and foremost, but also for the AAPI community — which has been reeling from high levels of racial discrimination,” they wrote on Twitter. “Few details have been released, including whether or not the shootings were related or motivated by hate. But right now there is a great deal of fear and pain in the Asian American community that must be addressed.”
HuffPost reported there have been 4,000 incidents of racism against Asians reported in the last year.
“6 of the 8 dead in Metro Atlanta are Asian women — 2 murder victims in Cherokee County and all 4 in Atlanta. Nothing was stolen, so robbery has been excluded as a motive. Police are investigating hate/bias in the 3 spa shootings,” Brendan Keefe of 11 Alive News wrote on Twitter.
The shooting prompted the NYPD to increase their presence in Asian communities. They deployed officers from the Critical Response Command to Asian communities around New York City.
“#NYPDCT is monitoring the shooting of Asian Americans in Georgia,” the NYPD Counterterrorism Bureau wrote on Twitter. “While there is no known nexus to #NYC we will be deploying assets to our great Asian communities across the city out of an abundance of caution.”
Witnesses told Channel 2 they heard gunshots and hid behind cars.
“UPDATE: Atlanta police tell us a total of four Asian women were shot and killed. 3 at Gold Spa, one at Aromatherapy spa. Looking into whether or not this is tied to a similar incident in Cherokee county,” Janice Yu of Fox 5 Atlanta wrote on Twitter.
“HAPPENING NOW: Atlanta police say at least one person was shot. People in the area tell me it appears it happened at the Spa,” she wrote in an earlier tweet.
“#BREAKING Cherokee SO: ‘We are investigating multiple shootings,’ wrote Erin Leport Radar of Fox 5. “Avoid HWY 92 at Bells Ferry Rd. @FOX5Atlanta has a crew on the scene. Standby for more information.”
The Cherokee County Sheriff shared the photo of the suspect and his vehicle shortly after the shooting.
“Please share,” the Cherokee County Sheriff wrote on Facebook. “Suspect in a multiple shooting on Hwy 92 near Bells Ferry Rd. If anyone recognizes this suspect or his vehicle please call 911.”
Long Was Described As ‘Innocent’ & ‘Nerdy’; He Was Heavily Involved With His Church
Long was described as a religious person by a former classmate at Sequoyah High. They both graduated in 2017.
“He was very innocent seeming and wouldn’t even cuss,” the classmate told The Daily Beast. “He was sorta nerdy and didn’t seem violent from what I remember. He was a hunter and his father was a youth minister or pastor. He was big into religion.”
Social media posts from the Crabapple First Baptist Church show Long and his family had a lengthy history with the church. Long’s father is not listed as a pastor at the church. The elders of the church released a statement to Heavy.com, saying they were “grieved” and “heartbroken.”
“We are grieved to hear the tragic news about the multiple deaths in the Atlanta area. We are heartbroken for all involved,” the statement said. “We grieve for the victims and their families, and we continue to pray for them. Moreover, we are distraught for the Long family and continue to pray for them as well.”
Posts indicate he attended the church with his mom, dad and his younger sister. His mother organized events at the church, like a movie night with a cotton candy machine.
He was also involved with the church’s Student Ministry Team as recently as 2018, according to minutes from a meeting of the elders. He was one of 11 people who served as team members, which “exists to see students receive Jesus Christ as Lord, and walk in Him, being rooted in the faith.”
The Daily Beast reported an Instagram account that “appeared to belong” to Long professed his love of God and guns.
“Pizza, guns, drums, music, family, and God. This pretty much sums up my life. It’s a pretty good life,” a tagline for the account said.