ATLANTA — Authorities said the suspect in the deadly rampage at three metro Atlanta spas targeted the businesses because he had “issues” with sexual addiction and had been planning to commit more shootings before he was captured.
The Cherokee County Sheriff said the suspect, Robert Aaron Long, 21, of Woodstock, claimed the shootings were not racially motivated. The sheriff described it as “targets of opportunity” and said Long told investigators he wanted to “eliminate the temptation.”
Channel 2′s Chris Jose learned that Long allegedly targeted businesses that he had been to before.
We’re talking with investigators about the newest developments as they happen. Stay with WSBTV.com and watch Channel 2 Action News for the latest updates as this story develops. Download our WSBNow app on your smart device to stream all of our newscasts.
A total of eight people were killed and another was injured in Tuesday’s shootings in Atlanta and Cherokee County. The FBI has now joined in the investigation.
White House officials tell Channel 2 Action News that President Biden has been briefed on the “horrific” shootings and officials “have been in touch with the Mayor’s office and will remain in touch with the FBI.”
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Long was captured in Crisp County, Georgia around 8:30 p.m. Tuesday. Investigators interviewed him shortly after and say Long did not give indications that this was a hate crime, but said they are not ruling out that possibility completely.
The Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office said Long has been charged with four counts of murder and one count aggravated assault. The Atlanta Police Department has also charged Long with four counts of murder.
The shooting began just before 5 p.m. Tuesday at Young’s Asian Massage spa off Bells Ferry Road and Highway 92 in Cherokee County. Two Asian women, one white woman and one white man were killed inside the spa. Another man, who is Hispanic, was injured. He is stable at WellStar Kennestone Hospital.
A family member of that victim told us her uncle was walking out of the store next door when he was hit by a bullet. He was rushed to the hospital.
“He was outside. That’s when they say he got shot,” said Adriana Mejia.
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The suspect then drove into the city of Atlanta, where he is accused of opening fire at two spas across the street from each other on Piedmont Road.
Three people were killed at Gold Spa and one was killed at Aromatherapy, according to investigators. In a news conference, Atlanta police confirmed all four victims were Asian women.
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said Long was on his way to Florida to carry out more shootings when he was arrested.
She praised the coordination between law enforcement for being able to make a quick arrest and spoke out against the violence in Atlanta.
“Whether it’s senseless violence we’ve seen play out in our streets, or more targeted violence like we saw yesterday. A crime against any community is a crime against us all,” Bottoms said in a news conference Thursday morning.
The Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office released surveillance images of the suspect and his car shortly after the shooting. Investigators say they were quickly contacted by Long’s family who identified their son and helped authorities track him down.
Investigators were able to track his phone heading south on I-75. Cherokee County Sheriff Frank Reynolds said he reached out to the Crisp County Sheriff to notify him that Long was heading into his jurisdiction.
Crisp County sheriff’s deputies and the Georgia State Patrol were able to spot the suspect’s car on I-75 near Cordele just before 8:30 p.m. After a short chase, Georgia State Patrol troopers performed a PIT maneuver on the car. Long was arrested without incident and taken to the Crisp County Detention Facility.
Investigators found one gun in his car, a 9mm, and say they believe that is the weapon he used to carry out the attacks. We confirmed that he purchased the gun the day of the shooting.
I've confirmed that Robert Aaron Long purchased a gun from Big Woods Goods in Holly Springs the day of the shooting. The store's attorney tells me they are cooperating with authorities & that "there is no indication of anything improper with the transfer" pic.twitter.com/jjKmweejzL— Justin Gray (@JustinGrayWSB) March 17, 2021
During his interview Tuesday night, investigators say Long confessed to the shootings in Cherokee County and Atlanta. He allegedly told investigators that he blames the massage spas for providing an outlet for his addiction to sex.
Authorities said he told them he wanted to “eliminate the temptation” for his sexual addiction.
“He stated that if he eliminated the enabler, which is spas, that it would help him,” Atlanta police chief Rodney Bryant told Channel 2′s Mark Winne.
Long was extradited back to Cherokee County Wednesday morning. His arraignment, which was originally scheduled for Thursday, was canceled and has not been rescheduled.
We’re beginning to learn more about the victims of the deadly shooting. The Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office released the names of the four deaths and one injury in that county:
Delaina Ashley Yaun, 33, of Acworth, Paul Andre Michels, 54, of Atlanta, Xiaojie Tan, 49, of Kennesaw and Daoyou Feng, 44, were killed. Elcias R. Hernandez-Ortiz, 30, of Acworth, was injured and is in serious condition but stable according to family.
UPDATE: The sole survivor in the Cherokee massage parlor shooting is 30yr old Elcias Hernandez-Ortiz. His family tells me they’re praying for him. Names released for victims in deadly Cherokee County spa shooting; Atlanta victims not identified yet https://t.co/pKGvH4Pmlc @wsbtv pic.twitter.com/S49A4ReXzL— Chris Jose (@ChrisJoseWSB) March 17, 2021
The names of the victims in the Atlanta shootings have not yet been released.
Patrols increased in Asian community
Immediately after the shooting, Atlanta police began checking with other Asian spas in the area and increased patrols.
Several communities around metro Atlanta also announced plans to beef up patrols in Asian communities.
“In response to yesterday’s tragic events in the city of Atlanta and Cherokee County, the police department immediately began providing extra patrols in and around Asian businesses, particularly spas, in Gwinnett County,” Gwinnett County police said in a statement. “Although there are no known threats at this time, these patrols will continue for the foreseeable future for the safety and comfort of the community. If anyone sees something that may appear suspicious or potentially criminal in nature, they are encouraged to call the police immediately.”
Cox Media Group