Police arrested a suspect after eight people were killed in shootings at three separate massage parlors in the Atlanta area Tuesday, March 16. Now the FBI has joined the investigation.
Two spas were in Atlanta and one was in Cherokee County. Police said six of the eight victims were Asian women; Cherokee County officials confirmed to 11Alive there is one suspect for all of the shootings.
Four people were killed and one other was wounded at Young's Asians Massage Parlor, on Highway 92 near Bells Ferry in Cherokee County, at around 5:00 p.m., officials said. When deputies got there, according to Capt. Jay Baker with the Cherokee County Sheriff's Office, they found two people who were dead inside, with three others still alive. Emergency crews rushed the three to the hospital, but two of them have since died. Officials described the victims as two Asian women, one White woman and one White man. The person still hospitalized was a Hispanic man, officials said.
Shortly after, about 30 miles south, shootings at two Atlanta massage parlors that are across the street from each other on Piedmont Road near Cheshire Bridge left four dead. Atlanta Police said three people were killed at the Gold Spa. The fourth person was killed across the street at the Aromatherapy Spa. Those calls came in at 5:47 p.m. and 5:57 p.m., according to Atlanta Police Department's call sheet. APD said it appears the four victims are all Asian women.
Tuesday evening, Cherokee officials released surveillance pictures of Robert Aaron Long, 21 of Woodstock and asked the public for help locating him.
Just before 9:00 p.m., Cherokee officials said he was arrested in Crisp County, Georgia which is off I-75 in south Central Georgia, about 150 miles south of Atlanta. Officials told 11Alive's Jon Shirek they used a PIT maneuver to stop his vehicle.
According to Capt. Baker, Cherokee County Sheriff Frank Reynolds had information that Long was driving south on I-75, and was able to track Long. Baker said Sheriff Reynolds called Crisp County Sheriff Billy Hancock to alert him that Long was approaching Crisp County. Sheriff Hancock deployed his deputies, and they, along with Georgia State Patrol troopers, intercepted Long. That's when a trooper used the PIT maneuver to stop Long.
Long is the lone suspect in both the shootings in Atlanta and Cherokee County, and according to Cherokee County officials, video surveillance at the Atlanta spas show the same man and car that the video shows at the Cherokee County spa.
Baker said during the news conference Wednesday that Long took responsibility for the shootings.
"He apparently has an issue. What he considers a sex addiction and sees these locations as something that allows him to go to these places and it's a temptation for him that he wanted to eliminate," Baker said.
Baker added that it's still early in the investigation, so they are still examining the motive.
"I think that is important that we first acknowledge the fact I know that many we've received a number of calls about is this a hate crime. We are still early in this investigation. So we cannot make that determination at this moment. Again, we are very early in this investigation," APD Interim Chief Rodney Bryant said Wednesday. "Even though we've made an arrest, there's still a lot more work to be done."
One group - Stop AAPI Hate - is already denounced the shooting.
“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," the group said in a statement. "This latest attack will only exacerbate the fear and pain that the Asian American community continues to endure."
Atlanta Police said they have since stepped up patrols in the areas near the Piedmont shooting.