Robert Aaron Long told authorities his motive was sex, not racism, when he allegedly gunned down eight people at Asian spas in the Atlanta area and injured a ninth person. The formal motive is still under investigation. The FBI is looking into whether the shootings in Woodstock, Cherokee County, Georgia, and northeastern Atlanta were hate crimes, officials said during a press conference.
A prosecutor filed a notice Tuesday, May 11, 2021 that they would seek the death penalty for Long and pursue hate crime charges, according to WSBTV. The eight victims were Suncha Kim, 69; Soon Chung Park, 74; Hyun Jung Grant, 51; and Yong Ae Yue, 63 in Fulton County and Xiaojie “Emily” Tan, 49; Daoyou Feng, 44; Delaina Yaun, 33; and Paul Michels, 54, in Cherokee County.
Deputies allege Long entered Young’s Asian Massage Parlor along Georgia Highway 92 and opened fire at about 5 p.m. March 16, 2021, shooting five people and killing four of them in Woodstock, an Atlanta suburb near Acworth. He then fled the Atlanta suburb and made his way to two spas in northeastern Atlanta, they said, and opened fire at two additional Asian spas, Gold Spa and Aromatherapy Spa, killing four more people. He was taken into custody in Crisp County nearly 200 miles away from the original crime scene. Deputies named the 21-year-old Woodstock man as the suspect at about 8 p.m. Minutes later, they announced he had been arrested. His arraignment is scheduled for Thursday morning.
Here’s what you need to know:
Long Was Zealously Religious & Claimed the Asian Massage Parlors Were ‘Temptations’ While Authorities Emphasized They Had No Evidence the Spas Were Involved With Illegal Activities
Authorities emphasized they had no indication the massage parlors Long targeted were involved in any sort of illegal activities. They said they did not know if he had even been to those specific locations. But he claimed he targeted them because he saw them as a “temptation.” He claimed to have a “sex addiction,” investigators said during a Wednesday morning press conference.
“He sees these locations as… a temptation for him that he wanted to eliminate,” Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office Captain Jay Baker said.
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said they had no previous complaints of criminal activity at the massage parlors, or any evidence that they were involved in illegal activities. The only 911 call the Atlanta Police Department ever received involving either of the spas was a report of stolen keys.
“As far as we know in Atlanta these are legally operating businesses that have not been on our radar, not on the radar of the Atlanta Police Department,” she said.
Cherokee County Sheriff Frank Reynolds said during the press conference that the shootings may have been “a target of opportunity” and that he “may have been lashing out.”
They questioned Long directly on whether he had a racist motive, Reynolds said.
“We asked that specific question, and that did not appear to be the motive,” he said.
Baker said Long seemed to “understand the gravity of the situation” but would not say whether he seemed remorseful.
“He was pretty much fed up, at the end of his rope, and it was a really bad day for him and this is what he did,” he said.
Baker later came under fire for the comment. He also said Long saw the spas as “a temptation” and he “wanted to take that temptation out.”
CNN reported Long had visited massage parlors for sex in the past. He had been treated for sex addiction and spent time in rehab. He told law enforcement he initially planned to kill himself. Then, he decided to “help” others with sexual addictions by targeting massage parlors.
Long was on his way south to Florida to target establishments he believed were involved in the porn industry when he was apprehended, he told officials.
Bottoms spoke on anti-Asian racism during the Wednesday press conference. She said that regardless of the motive, “it is unacceptable. It is hateful, and it has to stop.”
Classmates told the Daily Beast and the Associated Press Long was “big into religion” and walked his high school’s hallway with a Bible in his hand. Social media posts from the Crabapple First Baptist Church show Long and his family have a lengthy history with the church. The elders of the church released a statement to Heavy saying they are “grieved” and “heartbroken.” Long and his dad were involved with a student ministry, and his mom planned social gatherings.
“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.”
He talked about falling away from God during a testimony the church shared on video. He compared himself to the prodigal son, and said even though he believed in God as a young child, his actions did not reflect his beliefs.
The church’s Facebook page and website have now been deleted.
The FBI Is Continuing the Investigation Into Motive & Whether the Shootings Were Hate Crimes; He Was Not Motivated By Trump or Politics
Officials said during the press conference Wednesday morning that Long did not have a political motive in the killings.
“Nothing political. Nothing about politics,” Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office Captain Jay Baker said.
Officials emphasized that the investigation is in its preliminary stages, and that elements of the case like motive will be examined thoroughly, beyond what Long said in his initial interview with police.
Atlanta Police Department interim Chief Rodney Bryant opened his portion of the press conference by saying he knows reporters and the public would like to know whether the shootings were considered hate crimes.
“We are very early in this investigation,” he said. “Even though we have made an arrest, there’s still a lot more work to be done.”