Eight people, including six women of Asian descent, were killed during three shootings at massage spas in the Atlanta area on Tuesday.
Police arrested a suspect, 21-year-old Robert Aaron Long, of Georgia, several hours after releasing photos from surveillance footage near the businesses. There is so far no known motive.
“The suspect was arrested without incident and transported to the Crisp County Detention Center,” the sheriff’s office said in a statement on Facebook.
The rampage began just before 5pm at Young’s Asian Massage near Acworth, about 64 km north of Atlanta. Two people were shot and killed inside the business, and two others died after being taken to a hospital. One other person was injured in the attack.
Two of those killed were Asian women.
About an hour later, police responded to a call of a “robbery in progress” at Gold Spa in Atlanta. When they arrived, they found three women had been fatally shot. The officers were then called to Aromatherapy Spa across the street, where a fourth woman was found dead.
All four were of Asian descent.
Officials believe that one shooter was involved in all three incidents.
“It does appear that it’s the same suspect,” captain Jay Baker of the Cherokee Sheriff’s Office told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Photos of suspect Robert Aaron Long, 21 white male from Woodstock , GA, per Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office
Photos from Cherokee County Sheriff’s office of suspect outside of Young’s Asian Spa in Acworth, GA— where 4 people were murdered and one was injured in a shooting pic.twitter.com/dSj2GkawZL
— Dianne Gallagher (@DianneG) March 17, 2021
Surveillance video shows the shooter pulling up to Young’s Asian Massage in Acworth at about 4:50pm, shortly before the shooting occurred, according to The Associated Press.
Interim Atlanta Police Chief Rodney Bryant told the Journal-Constitution that it was about 5:45pm when the four people were found dead at the two businesses on Atlanta’s Piedmont Avenue.
The names of the victims have not yet been released. The Journal-Constitution notes that homicides are relatively uncommon in Cherokee County, where the first shooting occurred, and that the sheriff’s office had investigated just one in 2020 and one in 2019.
The Atlanta field office of the FBI was assisting police in their investigation, Reuters reported.
In just over a year, there have been an estimated 3,795 reports of racist incidents, including harassment and attacks, against Asian American and Pacific Islander people as the Covid-19 pandemic reached across the US, leading some to inflame hatred toward Asians based solely on the virus’s origin in China.
A collective of AAPI advocacy organisations and scholars known as Stop AAPI Hate compiled the data, which includes at least 503 incidents reported in 2021, from January 1 to February 28.
The group said later Tuesday that, although there were still no concrete details about the attack, the country has seen a “documented pattern of recent attacks against our community.”
“This latest attack will only exacerbate the fear and pain that the Asian American community continues to endure,” Stop AAPI Hate said in a statement. “Not enough has been done to protect Asian Americans from heightened levels of hate, discrimination and violence. Concrete action must be taken now. Anything else is unacceptable.”