In the span of 45 minutes, eight people were left dead, including six Asian American women, after a gunman pursued a shooting spree across three Georgia massage parlors Tuesday evening, officials said. The suspect was found and taken into custody shortly after and investigators are now working to understand what his motive was, authorities said.
The first shooting unfolded just before 5 p.m. at a massage parlor in Cherokee County along Highway 92, where four people were killed and one taken to the hospital for injuries, the Cherokee Sheriff’s Office said. Two were declared dead at the scene and two others died later at the hospital. The victims were two Asian women, a white woman, and a white man, the Atlanta Journal-Centinel reported. The fifth injured was a Hispanic man. There were two witnesses who were injured, according to reports.
The Cherokee County sheriff’s office said that the community has only witnessed two homicides in the last two years.
Just a short time later, 30 miles away, police in Atlanta were called for two more shootings at two additional massage parlors across from each other on Piedmont Road. Three women were fatally wounded at Gold Spa on Piedmont.
The shooter then traveled across the road where he entered the third parlor, Aromatherapy Spa, and killed one more woman, according to the Atlanta Journal-Centinel.
Four of the victims were confirmed to be of Korean descent, according to South Korea’s Foreign Ministry.
Police were eventually able to find the suspect just before 9 p.m. in south Georgia after an officer recognized his car. The suspect was later identified as 21-year-old Robert Aaron Long of Woodstock, according to reports. After investigators reviewed the surveillance video, he was quickly identified as the same assailant in all three incidences.
Long was taken to Crispt County Detention Center. He has no public criminal history, NPR reported.
Police have not come forward to discuss details of the investigation but do not believe the suspect was pursuing a robbery as there were no items stolen at any of the three locations. Politicians across the country are condemning the shootings and some calling it an “act of hate” and many are questioning if the shooting spree was racially motivated.
Of the eight killed, six of the victims were Asian American women, the Washington Post reported.
Since the start of the pandemic, hate crimes against Asians have spiked dramatically with a reported 3,800 incidences of discrimination in the last year, according to StopAAI a coalition to track harassment against Asians.
Long “frequented these places in the past and may have been lashing out,” Cherokee County Sheriff Frank Reynolds said during a Wednesday news conference, the Post reported.