A 21-year-old man is under arrest as the suspect in a series of shootings on Tuesday night in the Atlanta area.
The killings took place at three massage parlors and resulted in eight fatalities, including six women of Asian descent.
The suspect was chased down for hours before being caught and cuffed about 150 miles south of the city.
It comes as there is a rising wave of anti-Asian hate crimes across America, spurred in part by the COVID pandemic.
President Biden called the massage parlor killings “vicious” and said that the growing trend of anti-Asian hate crime must come to an end.
“It’s wrong. It’s un-American. And it must stop,” Biden said.
Candle and Police Tape by Tony Webster is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
What Exactly Happened?
According to police, the man suspected of the shootings is 21-year-old Robert Long of Woodstock, Georgia. Woodstock is located about half an hour’s drive north of Atlanta.
Long, who reportedly expressed love for “God and guns” on social media, went on a rampage through three massage parlors starting with Young’s Asian Massage Parlor in a place called Acworth about 30 miles northwest of Atlanta. That attack killed four and occurred around 5 p.m.
Long then allegedly drove south to Atlanta and mowed down employees at the Gold Massage Spa, killing three Asian women, then went across the street and killed another individual at a placed called Aromatherapy Spa.
Long then fled the scene, racing to get away in his Hyundai before being caught by cops in Crisp County about 150 miles southwest of Atlanta.
No motive has been listed and police haven’t said what firearm or firearms were used or whether they were legally owned.
A high school classmate who knew Long said he never would have suspected him.
“He was very innocent seeming and wouldn’t even cuss. He was sorta nerdy and didn’t seem violent from what I remember. He was a hunter and his father was a youth minister or pastor. He was big into religion.”
Eight people, six of them women of Asian descent, have been shot dead at a massage parlor and two spas in the U.S. city of Atlanta area. The suspect behind the atrocity has been taken into custody. pic.twitter.com/9ZWP491SUh
— ANews (@anews) March 17, 2021
‘Hate is Deadly’
Responding to the shootings, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp said that “hate is deadly” and that “our entire family is praying for the victims of these horrific acts of violence.”
Meanwhile, recently-elected Senator Raphael Warnock said that “my heart is broken after the tragic violence.”
Although police originally thought what was happening was a robbery in Atlanta’s red light district, they quickly realized it was a mass casualty event. Although it’s unclear if it’s related to anti-Asian beliefs or objection to sex workers, Long’s social media posts seem to provide some clues that it may be related to religious motivations.
In a since-deleted 2018 video for his Baptist church, Long talks about living in sin but then returning to religion.
“By the grace of God I was able to draw the connection there and realize this is a story between what happened with me and God. I ran away living completely for myself, and he still wants me, and so that’s when I was saved,” Long says.
Long’s church – which is located in Crabapple about a 20 minute drive from his hometown of Woodstock – said they are horrified to hear of what happened and “heartbroken for all involved.”
If this is related to anti-Asian violence then it needs to be made clear that the COVID pandemic is the fault of the Chinese communist government, not Chinese individuals nor Asian individuals more broadly. Furthermore, Chinese people are victims of their own government as well and should be supported in their struggle against it.
If it’s related to a religious or moral motivation it needs to be said that while prostitution and sex working is certainly immoral and wrong, it’s also not the right of any individual to commit violence against someone. If anything, those working in prostitution – who may have also been human trafficked – should be helped and rescued, not killed.