Atlanta-area spa shootings: Suspect arrested after 8 people killed at 3 massage parlors; most victims were Asian – USA TODAY

Eight people, most of them women of Asian descent, were killed Tuesday night in three shootings at Atlanta-area massage parlors before police arrested a 21-year-old man suspected of being the lone gunman.

Police have not released the names of the victims nor indicated any possible motive of the suspect but at least four were of Korean descent, South Korea’s Foreign Ministry said in statement Wednesday. Authorities also told the Atlanta Journal Constitution that six of the eight victims appeared to be Asian women.

The killings came amid a recent wave of attacks against Asian Americans that coincided with the spread of the coronavirus across the United States. 

The first shooting began around 5 p.m. Tuesday some 30 miles north of Atlanta when five people were shot at a massage parlor, Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Capt. Jay Baker said. Two of the victims died at the scene. Three were taken to a hospital, where two of them also died, Baker said.

About an hour later, Atlanta police responded to calls for a robbery in progress and found three women dead at the Gold Spa, Atlanta Police Sgt. John Chafee said. While still on scene, police received calls for shots fired across the street at another massage parlor, where they found another woman fatally shot. 

Video evidence “suggests it is extremely likely” the suspect is the same in each attack,  Chafee said in a statement to USA TODAY. 

“Many have asked whether these shootings are related to Cherokee County’s shootings,” Chafee said. “Video footage from our Video Integration Center places the Cherokee County suspect’s vehicle in the area, around the time of our Piedmont Road (in Atlanta) 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.”

Here’s what we know:

Where did the shootings happen?

Two of the shootings occurred across the street from each other in Atlanta on Piedmont Road, at the Gold Spa and the Aromatherapy Spa, following a shooting in the suburbs.

The first incident happened at Young’s Asian Massage Parlor in a strip mall off Highway 92 near a rural area in Acworth, about 30 miles north of Atlanta.

Who is the suspect, Robert Long?

Robert Aaron Long, 21, of Woodstock, Georgia, was taken into custody in Crisp County on Tuesday night, about 150 miles south of Atlanta, Baker said. 

Deputies in Crisp County received information that Long was traveling south in a black SUV around 8 p.m., a sheriff’s spokesperson told USA TODAY.

He was spotted by Georgia State Patrol troopers and Crisp County deputies. He was arrested and taken to the County Detention Center.

Wednesday morning, Long was extradited into Cherokee County sheriff’s custody, Haley Little, a Crisp County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson told USA TODAY. 

Who were the victims?

The victims in the Acworth shooting were two Asian women, a white woman and a white man, Baker told the Atlanta Journal Constitution. The fifth victim was a Hispanic man who was injured and taken to the hospital.

All four victims of the Atlanta shootings appeared to be Asian women, police told the Atlanta Journal Constitution. Police have not released the identities of the victims. 

The South Korean Foreign Ministry said Wednesday that its diplomats in Atlanta confirmed four of the women were of Korean descent.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is currently in South Korea meeting with Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong and addressed the killings Wednesday. “We are horrified by this violence which has no place in America or anywhere,” he said.

In a statement, Stop AAPI Hate, which tracks incidents of discrimination and xenophobia against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, said: “The reported shootings of multiple Asian American women today in Atlanta is an unspeakable tragedy — for the families of the victims first and foremost, but also for the Asian American community, which has been reeling from high levels of racist attacks over the course of the past year,”

“This latest attack will only exacerbate the fear and pain that the Asian American community continues to endure.”

Hate crimes against Asian Americans during COVID:Attacks on Asian Americans highlight rise in hate incidents amid COVID-19

What is the motive?

Police are investigating and haven’t speculated as to the suspect’s motive.

Contributing: Jordan Culver, USA TODAY, Associated Press

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