What caused the horrible crime which took the lives of 8 people? The Atlanta shooting suspect attended rehab for sex addiction, felt ‘remorse and shame,’ former roommates say. Do you think this was race related?
At least eight people were killed Tuesday after shootings at three spas in the Atlanta area. Police say video evidence led them to believe one suspect, Robert Aaron Long, was responsible for all three shootings. He was arrested Tuesday night about 150 miles south of Atlanta. Info on the murders below:
Where did the shootings take place?
The first shooting happened shortly before 5 p.m. Tuesday at Young’s Asian Massage near Woodstock, Georgia, about 30 miles northwest of downtown Atlanta.
That shooting left four dead — two were pronounced dead at the scene, and two others died at the hospital. One person was also wounded, Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office said.
Authorities had responded to the scene for reports of a shooting.
About an hour later, three people were found dead at the Gold Massage Spa on Piedmont Road in Atlanta, Police Chief Rodney Bryant said.
One person was also found dead at the Aroma Therapy Spa, directly across the street.
The two Atlanta spas are on a stretch of Piedmont Road, just off Interstate 85. About a dozen other spas are located within a mile of Gold Massage and Aroma Therapy.
What’s known about the victims?
Of those who died, six were Asian and two were White, Cherokee County sheriff’s officials said in a joint news conference with Atlanta police on Wednesday.
All six Asian victims were women, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported earlier, citing authorities.
The four killed in the shooting near Woodstock were Delaina Ashley Yaun, 33, of Acworth; Paul Andre Michels, 54, of Atlanta; Xiaojie Tan, 49, of Kennesaw; and Daoyou Feng, 44.
The injured survivor was Elcias R. Hernandez-Ortiz, 30, of Acworth, authorities said.
“We never know when we’re at the wrong place at the wrong time and I feel like that’s what happened with him,” Adriana Meijia, Hernandez-Ortiz’s niece, told CNN affiliate WSB-TV.
Police didn’t immediately release the names of the four people killed at the two Atlanta spas.
“We need to make sure we have a true verification of their identities and that we make the proper next of kin notification,” said Atlanta Deputy Chief Charles Hampton Jr.
Four of those killed were of Korean ethnicity, according to South Korea’s foreign ministry, which said it was in contact with its consulate in Atlanta.
The foreign ministry said it was working to confirm the victims’ nationality, and would provide necessary support.
What led to Long’s arrest?
The Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office identified Long, 21, of Woodstock, as a suspect.
Before identifying him, Cherokee County investigators found surveillance video of a suspect near the first scene and published it on social media.
Long’s family saw the image and helped authorities identify him, Cherokee County Sheriff Frank Reynolds said Wednesday.
Investigators tracked Long’s phone, and Reynolds reached out to authorities in Crisp County, well to the south, to let them know he appeared to be heading in that direction, Reynolds said.
Long’s vehicle was spotted, a chase ensued on Interstate 75 in Crisp County, and a state trooper performed a maneuver that sent the SUV out of control, authorities said.
Police arrested Long and confiscated a 9 millimeter gun from his vehicle, Cherokee County authorities said.
Video evidence — including that showing Long’s vehicle in the area of the Atlanta shootings — suggests that Long is responsible for the killings in Atlanta, police there said.
Long has claimed responsibility for the shootings in Cherokee County and in Atlanta, the Cherokee County sheriff’s office said.
He was being held Wednesday in Cherokee County on four counts of murder and one count of aggravated assault, the sheriff’s office said. He is also facing four counts of murder in Atlanta, according to city police.
What have officials said about Long’s intentions?
Preliminary information indicates the shootings could relate to the suspect’s claim of a potential sex addiction, Cherokee County authorities said Wednesday. Long told investigators he saw the spas as a temptation that he wanted to eliminate, they said.
The Atlanta spas were “legally operating businesses” that were not on the authorities’ radar, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said.
Hampton confirmed Thursday that Long frequented the two spas in Atlanta.
It simply was too early to know a motive, Atlanta Police Chief Rodney Bryant said at a joint news conference with Cherokee County sheriff’s officials.
“There’s still a lot more work to be done. … We’re just not there as of yet,” Bryant said.
Because of the victims’ backgrounds, some public officials had raised fears before Wednesday’s police news conference that ethnicity had come into play, amid rising concerns nationwide about anti-Asian violence during the coronavirus pandemic.
Acknowledging most of the victims were Asian, Bottoms said Wednesday, “We know (violence against Asian Americans) is an issue that’s happening around the country; it is unacceptable, it is hateful, and it has to stop.”
Long told investigators the killings were not racially motivated, the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office said in a news release.
Where was Long headed before he was arrested?
Before he was stopped, Long was headed to Florida “perhaps to carry out additional shootings,” Bottoms, the Atlanta mayor, said Wednesday, citing investigators.
“It’s very likely there would have been more victims,” Bottoms said.
Long told investigators he was headed to Florida and was “going to do more acts” there, Cherokee County Sheriff’s Capt. Jay Baker said Wednesday.
What have Long’s relatives or acquaintances said about him?
Long spent time in rehabilitation for sexual addiction last year, a former roommate told CNN Wednesday.
The roommate, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said he lived with Long for several months in summer 2020 at a transition house for people exiting rehab. He declined to identify the transition house or say which state it was in.
Long didn’t talk about his addiction, the roommate said, but had seemed to be doing better by the time he left the transition house. The roommate said he hadn’t been in contact with Long “in a long time.”
Long seemed to have “self-hatred,” the roommate said.
But overall, he said, Long seemed kind and often cooked food for his friends. The roommate also said he “never heard him say anything racial.”
“It just doesn’t make sense to me,” the roommate said of the shooting.
Tyler Bayless said he shared a housing unit with Long at Maverick Recovery, a rehab facility in Roswell, Georgia, between August 2019 and February 2020.
“It was something that absolutely would torture him,” Bayless said. He said Long was a “deeply religious person — he would often go on tangents about his interpretation of the Bible” and was distraught about his addiction to sex.
Bayless said that on multiple occasions during his stay at the facility, Long told him that he had “relapsed” and “gone to massage parlors explicitly to engage in sex acts.”
Long “may have frequented some of these places in the past,” Reynolds said, referring to the shooting sites. It’s not clear whether any of the three businesses offered sexual services in addition to massages. But authorities have given no indication any of the sites was operating illegally.
“We are not about to get into victim-blaming, victim-shaming here,” Bottoms said. “We don’t know additional information about what (Long’s) motives were, but we certainly will not begin to blame victims.”
CNN went to the home of Long’s grandparents in Morristown, Tennessee, on Wednesday. “All I want to say is that he is our grandson and we still love him very much,” said Long’s grandmother, Margaret Long, who was visibly upset.
Long’s grandfather interrupted the conversation, saying they’d been told not to speak.