Robert Aaron Long, 21, has been charged with murdering four people at two spas in Atlanta and four more in a spa in Cherokee County Tuesday. Six of the victims were women of Asian descent
Atlanta police said Thursday that ‘nothing is off the table’ in the investigation of the deadly shootings at Georgia massage parlors, including whether it was a hate crime.
Robert Aaron Long, 21, has been charged with murdering four people at two spas in Atlanta and four more in a spa in Cherokee County Tuesday. Six of the victims were women of Asian descent.
‘Our investigation is looking at everything, so nothing is off the table,’ Deputy Atlanta Police Chief Charles Hampton Jr. said at a news conference.
The Cherokee County Sheriff´s Office also said it was investigating whether the killings were hate crimes.
Long – who was said to be customer at two out of the three targeted spas – told police on Wednesday that the attacks were not racially motivated. Police say he bought the firearm used to kill eight people on the day of the attack.
He claimed to have a sex addiction, and authorities said he apparently lashed out at what he saw as sources of temptation.
Long’s statements spurred outrage and widespread skepticism in the Asian American community, which has increasingly been targeted for violence during the coronavirus pandemic.
Cherokee County Sheriff´s Office spokesman Capt. Jay Baker also drew criticism for saying Long had ‘a really bad day’ and ‘this is what he did.’
Sheriff Frank Reynolds released a statement Thursday acknowledging that some of Baker´s comments stirred ‘much debate and anger’ and said the agency regrets any ‘heartache’ caused by his words.
Baker has since been removed as a spokesperson for the case, WSB-TV reported Thursday.
‘Our investigation is looking at everything, so nothing is off the table,’ Deputy Atlanta Police Chief Charles Hampton Jr. said at a news conference
Captain Jay Baker said on Wednesday that the shooter had had a ‘very bad day’ and was ‘at the end of his rope’. Sheriff Frank Reynolds released a statement Thursday acknowledging that some of Baker´s comments stirred ‘much debate and anger’ and said the agency regrets any ‘heartache’ caused by his words
‘In as much as his words were taken or construed as insensitive or inappropriate, they were not intended to disrespect any of the victims, the gravity of this tragedy or express empathy or sympathy for the suspect,’ Reynolds said.
He added that Baker ‘had a difficult task before him, and this was one of the hardest in his 28 years in law enforcement.’
The sheriff´s statement did not address a 2020 Facebook post that appeared to have been written by Baker promoting a T-shirt with racist language about China and the coronavirus.
Baker has not commented on the post, which was taken down Wednesday.
Authorities have not officially released the names of the victims. They have been indetified locally as Delaina Ashley Yaun, 33, Paul Andre Michels, 54, Xiaojie Yan, 49, and 44-year-old Daoyou Feng.
Long was caught after his parents spotted him in surveillance pictures released by police and called 911, authorities said Wednesday.
He went on the run and was driving to Florida to target porn-industry locations when he was arrested 150 miles south of Atlanta, police said. Officers rammed his Hyundai off the road to take him into custody where he is said to have confessed to the killings.
Atlanta police on Wednesday released 911 calls made during the shooting. In one a woman inside the Gold Spa whispers as she tells the operator she is hiding and that a robbery is in progress.
Ten minutes later in a second call regarding the Aromatherapy Spa a caller says: ‘They said some guy came in. We heard a gunshot and, you know, the lady’s passed out in front of the door. And everybody is scared and everybody is hiding.’
The Georgia killings have prompted police departments across the country to step up patrols and visibility in Asian-American communities around New York City, Chicago, Atlanta and San Francisco.
Hate crimes against Asian Americans rose by 149% in 2020 in 16 major cities compared with 2019, according to the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism.
Many believe the racist attacks were fueled by President Donald Trump referring to COVID as the ‘China virus’ as it was first seen in Wuhan, China.
Tyler Bayless, who met Long in rehab, told Inside Edition he was ‘not surprised that there was an extreme reaction from him in regard to those places of business’.
Bayless added: ‘Certainly, it surfaced through that way, and then several times when we were together he did what you would call a relapse, and had frequented some of these massage parlors.’
President Joe Biden on Thursday ordered all American flags at all public buildings to be flown at half-staff to remember the victims of the massacre.
He directed that flags be flown at half-staff through sunset Monday in honor of the dead.
Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris had already changed their plans for a previously scheduled trip to Atlanta. The pair postponed a political event in favor of meeting Friday with Asian American community leaders.
The Georgia killings have prompted police departments across the country to step up patrols and visibility in Asian-American communities around New York City, Chicago, Atlanta and San Francisco
Law enforcement officials confer outside Gold Spa following a shooting on Tuesday
Georgia lawmakers last year passed a hate crimes law that allows additional penalties to be imposed for certain offenses when motivated by a victim´s race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender or disability.
A hate crime is not a standalone crime under the law, but it can be used to add time to a sentence once someone is convicted of another crime.
Lawyer J. Daran Burns issued a statement saying he had been appointed to represent Long. He offered condolences to victims’ families and said he was working on Long’s behalf ‘to investigate the facts and circumstances’ surrounding the slayings.
Long waived his right to an initial hearing in Cherokee County Magistrate Court on his lawyer’s advice, the statement said.
The president and vice president were already scheduled to travel to Atlanta to tout the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill, but the trip took on new meaning after the shootings.
Long was caught after his parents spotted him in surveillance pictures released by police and called 911, authorities said Wednesday. His home is pictured
VICTIMS OF GEORGIA MASSAGE SPA SHOOTINGS
Delaina Ashley Yaun, 33,
Delaina Ashley Yaun, 33- DECEASED
Delaina was at Young’s Asian Massage for a couple’s treatment with her husband when friends say she was killed.
The mother-of-two’s husband survived.
Paul Andre Michels, 54 – DECEASED
Xiaojie Yan, 49 – DECEASED
Daoyou Feng, 44 – DECEASED
Elcias R Hernandez-Ortiz, 30 – INJURED
Elcias R Hernandez-Ortiz
Elcias was shot in the throat, forehead, lungs and stomach.
He survived but he is in critical condition in the hospital.
Before he lost consciousness, he called his wife to tell her he’d been injured.
His wife, Flor Gonzalez, 27, told The Washington Post that he was likely on his way to a store next door to send money back to his family in Guatemala when he was attacked.
Doctors say they expect him to survive, despite the severity of his injuries.
The visit also comes amid an intense debate over voter rights in Georgia. Harris is the first vice president of Asian descent.
During the trip, Biden and Harris will instead meet with Asian American leaders to discuss the ongoing threats against the community, meet with other local leaders and visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for an update on the pandemic.
At a congressional hearing on violence against Asian Americans that was scheduled before the shootings, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler called Thursday for the government to ‘investigate and swiftly address’ growing tensions but did not call for a specific course of action.
Lawmakers in the House and Senate have introduced legislation that would assign a person at the Justice Department to expedite the review of hate crimes related to COVID-19 and provide additional support to state and local authorities to respond to those crimes.
But it is unclear if the bill by Rep. Grace Meng, D-N.Y., and Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, will get a vote.
Testifying at the hearing, Meng urged Democratic leaders to move the legislation and said lawmakers ‘cannot turn a blind eye’ to people who are living in fear.
‘Our community is bleeding,’ Meng said. ‘We are in pain. And for the last year, we´ve been screaming out for help.’
There was some tension as a Republican on the panel, Texas Rep. Chip Roy, charged that Democrats were trying to control speech.
‘When we start policing free speech, we´re doing the very thing that we´re condemning when we condemn what the Chinese Communist Party does to their country,’ Roy said. ‘And that´s exactly where this wants to go.’
Meng responded angrily to Roy´s comments, saying that Republicans ‘can talk about issues with any other country you want, but you don´t have to do it by putting a bull´s-eye on the back of Asian Americans across this country, on our grandparents, on our kids.’
FILE – In this March 12, 2021, file photo, President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris walk along the White House colonnade as they arrive to speak in the Rose Garden in Washington. Biden and Harris plan to meet with Asian American community leaders in Georgia in the wake of the deadly shootings at three Atlanta-area massage parlors, the White House announced Thursday, March 18. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)
Roula AbiSamra, center, and Chelsey, right, prepare to lay flowers bouquets at a makeshift memorial outside of the Gold Spa in Atlanta
EXCLUSIVE: Chilling video shows Atlanta gunman stalking his victims as they enter the spa before going inside and killing four – then driving away to his next target as the wounded spill onto the sidewalk
Exclusive video shows gunman Robert Aaron Long parked outside Young’s Asian Massage Parlor Tuesday afternoon, sitting patiently in the driver’s seat of his black Hyundai Tucson and eerily watching people enter before he stepped inside and opened fired, killing four.
A short while later, the surveillance video obtained by DailyMail.com shows the door swing back open and Long step out. The 21-year-old rushes back to his vehicle, hops in and speeds off to continue his massacre at two other Atlanta area spas.
Moments after he drove off, the video shows a few lucky survivors exiting the spa, followed by the arrival of cops and paramedics a few minutes later. One victim was carried out and left on the sidewalk with blood flowing from a bullet wound in the back of their head.
One man who’d been getting a massage with his wife sat outside in handcuffs as his wife lay dying inside. Police still hadn’t identified a suspect at the time and restrained him as a precaution.
Exclusive video obtained by DailyMail.com shows gunman Robert Aaron Long parked outside Young’s Asian Massage Parlor Tuesday afternoon and eerily watching people enter before he stepped inside and opened fired, killing four
Moments later he’s seen rushing back to his vehicle, hops in and speeds off to continue his massacre at two other Atlanta area spas
Within minutes the video shows a few lucky survivors exiting the spa, followed by the arrival of cops and paramedics as one victim is seen on the sidewalk with blood flowing from a bullet wound to the head
One man who’d been getting a massage with his wife sat outside in handcuffs, as his wife lay dying inside. Police still hadn’t identified a suspect, so restrained him as a precaution.
Long shot dead eight people including six Asian women at three parlors – one in Acworth and two in Atlanta – on Tuesday. He then went on the run and was driving to Florida to target porn-industry locations when he was arrested 150 miles south of Atlanta. Police rammed his Hyundai off the road to take him into custody
Three woman who’d just exited the spa and were standing on the sidewalk. ‘Somebody inside, they shot, they shot!’ one of the women cried out
Alex Acosta, who works with his wife Rita Barron at Gabby’s Boutique next door, was washing his hands in a sink in the back of his shop when the first shot rang out. He told DailyMail.com he heard four shots in short succession.
Running to the front of the store, he saw three woman who’d just exited the spa and were standing on the sidewalk.
‘Somebody inside, they shot, they shot!’ one of the women, of Asian dissent, cried out to him, her English limited.
Acosta called out to his wife, directing her to ‘call 911!’ Barron was inside the shop, which one of the bullets pierced, leaving a tiny hole in the shared wall.
Acosta saw the man who’d been placed in handcuffs. He recognized him as Mario Gonzalez, whose wife Delaina was inside with a fatal bullet wound.
‘Mario looked at me and he told me his wife was still inside,’ Acosta recalled. ‘He told me to tell the police.’
When Acosta’s wife told a cop about Delaina, the officer replied, ‘I know.’
Rita Barron had know Delaina for years. She said Delaina would shop in her boutique. Barron would also see her at a nearby Waffle House where Delaina worked as a waitress.
‘I feel sad for all the families because we knew all the people who were involved,’ Barron said.
Alex Acosta, who works with his wife Rita Barron at Gabby’s Boutique next door, was washing his hands in a sink in the back of his shop when the first shot rang out. He told DailyMail.com he heard four shots in short succession
‘I feel sad for all the families because we knew all the people who were involved,’ shop owner Rita Barron said. Her friend Delaina was killed in the spa
Small droplets of blood can be seen on the ground next to flowers and cards memorializing the victims of the shooting
Four of the eight victims have now been named as; Delaina Ashley Yaun, 33; Paul Andre Michels, 54; Xiaojie Yan, 49; and Daoyou Feng, 44. Elcias R Hernandez-Ortiz was injured but survived