ATLANTA — Authorities arrested a 21-year-old man from Woodstock in a deadly rampage at three metro Atlanta spas.
Robert Aaron Long was captured after a short chase in Crisp County on Tuesday night. Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said investigators believe Long was headed to Florida to potentially carry out more shootings when he was arrested.
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Here’s what we know about the suspect:
Authorities identified the suspect as Robert Aaron Long, 21, of Woodstock, Georgia.
Eight people were killed and one person was injured in the shootings that happened at three spas Tuesday afternoon. Long is the main suspect in all three shootings.
One spa was located in Cherokee County, about 15 minutes from the suspect’s home. The other two spas were located on Piedmont Road in Atlanta.
Cherokee County Sheriff Frank Reynolds said Long told investigators that he had a sexual addiction and had frequented all three businesses before. After interviewing him on Tuesday night, investigators said he gave no indication that the shootings were racially motivated. Instead, he indicated to investigators that he targeted the specific businesses, Reynolds told Channel 2′s Chris Jose.
The Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office said Long has been charged with four counts of murder and one count of aggravated assault. The Atlanta Police Department has also charged Long with four counts of murder.
JUST IN: Robert Aaron Long, 21 , is booked into jail accused of murdering 8 people in shooting spree targeting Asian massage parlors across metro Atlanta. pic.twitter.com/xrU5JCNCMx— Michael Seiden (@SeidenWSBTV) March 17, 2021
Long was actively involved in his church.
Long was described as an active member of Crabapple First Baptist Church.
On the church’s social media page, which has since been deleted, Long was seen presenting testimony of his baptism back in 2018.
The church sent Channel 2 Action News the following statement:
“We are heartbroken for all involved. We grieve for the victims and their families, and we continue to pray for them. Moreover, we are distraught for the Long family and continue to pray for them as well.”
Nico Straughan, 21, who went to school with Long, described him as “super nice, super Christian, very quiet” and said that in high school Long brought a Bible to school every day and would walk around with it in his hands.
“He went from one of the nicest kids I ever knew in high school to being on the news yesterday,” Straughan said.
Investigators used surveillance images of Long to tie the shootings together.
Deputies were called to Young’s Asian Massage near Acworth just before 5 p.m. Tuesday. Authorities said four people – including two women of Asian descent, one white woman and one white man – were killed when Long allegedly opened fire inside the spa. A Hispanic man was shot outside the spa as he walked out of the store next door, family members told Jose. He was rushed to the hospital but is now stable.
An hour and a half later, the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office shared surveillance images of Long and the car he was driving outside the Acworth spa minutes before the shooting.
Rita Barron, the store manager of a business neighboring the massage spa that was targeted in Cherokee County, said that security footage of the parking lot outside the stores showed the gunman had been sitting outside in his car for about an hour just watching.
Investigators asked everyone to be on alert for a dark-colored Hyundai Tucson with tag number RZR8983.
Around 6 p.m., Atlanta police responded to two spas on Piedmont Road, where four women of Asian descent had been shot and killed – three at Gold Spa and one at Aromatherapy Spa.
Police in Atlanta were able to use video footage to find Long’s car outside the Piedmont Road spas at the time of those shootings.
After releasing the surveillance images, the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office said it was contacted by Long’s family, who identified their son and helped police track him down.
Please share. Suspect in a multiple shooting on Hwy 92 near Bells Ferry Rd. If anyone recognizes this suspect or his vehicle please call 911.Posted by Cherokee Sheriff's Office - Georgia on Tuesday, March 16, 2021
Long was captured Tuesday night in south Georgia.
The Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office says investigators were quickly able to track Long’s phone and see that he was heading south on I-75. Reynolds said in a news conference Wednesday that he contacted Crisp County Sheriff Bill Hancock to let him know that Long may be heading into his jurisdiction.
Around 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, Crisp County deputies along with Georgia State Patrol Troopers spotted Long’s car on I-75 near Cordele. After a short chase, troopers performed a PIT maneuver about 10 miles down the road near Arabi.
Long was arrested without incident and taken to the Crisp County Detention Center, Hancock said in a Facebook video. Wednesday morning, Long was transferred back to Cherokee County. His arraignment, which was originally scheduled for Thursday, was canceled and has not been rescheduled.
Long purchased a gun on the day of the shooting.
Officials said they found a 9mm in the car and believe that was the gun he used to carry out all the shootings. No other guns were found in his possession.
Channel 2 investigative reporter Justin Gray confirmed with Big Woods Goods in Holly Spring that Long purchased a gun at the store the day of the shooting.
The store’s attorney said they are cooperating with authorities and that “there is no indication of anything improper with the transfer.”
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
Investigators are still trying to determine a motive.
Investigators interviewed Long after his arrest Tuesday night. They say Long took responsibility for the shootings.
The Cherokee County Sheriff told Channel 2 Action News that he believes Long targeted the businesses specifically. Reynolds said Long told investigators he had a sexual addiction and frequented all three businesses. A spokesperson for the sheriff’s office say Long blamed the spas for furthering his addiction and “wanted to eliminate the temptation.”
Reynolds said Long gave no indication that the shootings were racially motivated but they are not completely ruling that out. Several organizations that address hate crimes against Asian Americans along with several Asian American leaders released statements Tuesday night.
“The reported shootings of Asian American women on Tuesday in Atlanta is an unspeakable tragedy – for the families of the victims first and foremost, but also for the AAPI community – which has been reeling from high levels of racial discrimination,” Stop AAPI Hate tweeted Tuesday night. “Few details have been released, including whether or not the shootings were related or motivated by hate. But right now there is a great deal of fear and pain in the Asian American community that must be addressed.”
“I am utterly devastated to learn about the 8 people senselessly shot to death in Georgia tonight. 6 of these victims are Asian American women. Our community has been facing a relentless increase in attacks and harassment over the past year,” California Rep. Judy Chu said. “As we wait for more details to emerge, I ask everyone to remember that hurtful words and rhetoric have real life consequences. Please stand up, condemn this violence, and help us #StopAsianHate.”
The Associated Press contributed to this article.
Cox Media Group