ATLANTA, Ga. (CW69 News at 10/CNN) — Spa shootings leaves eight people dead. Six of the eight people who were shot dead at three metro Atlanta massage spas on Tuesday were Asian women, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported, citing authorities.
Police have not yet offered a motive in the bloody attacks. But because of many of the victims’ backgrounds, some public officials and organizations have raised concerns that ethnicity came into play, against a backdrop of an increase in violence against Asian Americans nationwide.READ MORE: Robert Long, Alleged Atlanta Spa Shooter, May Have 'Sex Addiction': Police
Avoid BellsFerry Road and Highway 92 if possible. Investigating a shooting in that area. pic.twitter.com/0AiyV33HSO
— Cherokee Sheriff’s Office (@CherokeeSO) March 16, 2021
The shootings — which happened within the space of about an hour — began near Belles Ferry and Highway 92, about 30 miles northwest of Atlanta according to Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office. That was followed by two more at spas in northeastern Atlanta.
South Korea’s foreign ministry, which had been in touch with its consulate in Atlanta, has said that four of the victims were of Korean ethnicity.
A 21-year-old suspect was taken into custody about 150 miles south of Atlanta on Tuesday night, and police say they believe he was likely responsible for the three attacks.
Authorities haven’t publicly identified the victims as they work to notify next of kin.
Earlier, Atlanta Police Chief Rodney Bryant said the four victims within the city were female and appeared to be Asian.
Among the many questions remaining in the case, authorities are still investigating the motive behind the shootings. But the details of how the horror unfolded are becoming clearer.
How the shootings unfolded
Though spread across 30 miles, the attacks took place in quick succession.
Around 5 p.m. Tuesday, deputies were called to Young’s Asian Massage near Acworth, Georgia, after reports of a shooting, Cherokee County Sheriff’s spokesperson Jay Baker said.
Responding deputies found five people with gunshot wounds. Two people were pronounced dead at the scene and three were transported to a hospital, where two died, Baker said.
About an hour later and 30 miles away, Atlanta police responded to what was described as a robbery at the Gold Massage Spa on Piedmont Road in Atlanta. Police say they found three people dead.
While there, police received another call of shots fired across the street at the Aroma Therapy Spa, where they found one person dead, Bryant said.
Authorities in the area, known as Atlanta’s Zone 2, said they are increasing patrols around similar businesses, and FBI spokesperson Kevin Rowson said the agency is assisting with the investigations.
Around 8:30 p.m., the highway patrol about 150 miles south of the city was alerted that a suspect in the Cherokee County shooting was heading its way, Sheriff Frank Reynolds said in a video on the Crisp County Sheriff’s Department Facebook page.
After the suspect’s vehicle was spotted, a chase ensued on Interstate 75 and a state trooper performed a maneuver that sent the SUV out of control.
“The suspect was taken into custody without incident … and transported to the Crisp County jail,” the official said.
The Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office identified him as Robert Aaron Long, 21, of Woodstock.READ MORE: UPDATE: Atlanta Spa Shootings, FBI Assisting Investigation
Police believe Long is also responsible for the shootings in Atlanta, the Atlanta Police Department said in a news release.
“Video footage from our Video Integration Center places the Cherokee County suspect’s vehicle in the area, around the time of our Piedmont Road shootings,” the Atlanta Police Department said in a news release. “That, along with video evidence viewed by investigators, suggests it is extremely likely our suspect is the same as Cherokee County’s, who is in custody. Because of this, an investigator from APD is in Cherokee County and we are working closely with them to confirm with certainty our cases are related.”
A community shaken
Police have not provided any motive for the shootings.
But in a statement Tuesday, the Stop AAPI Hate organization said the incident shows that more needs to be done to protect Asian Americans.
“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,” it said. “This latest attack will only exacerbate the fear and pain that the Asian American community continues to endure.”
In Seattle, officials increased outreach to community-based organizations and added an increased presence of police patrols, Mayor Jenny A. Durkan and Chief of Police Adrian Diaz said in a statement.
National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum Executive Director Sung Yeon Choimorrow said in a statement, “We are appalled and devastated at the violence in Georgia that has taken eight lives, six of whom were Asian American women. We mourn with the families of these victims. We are horrified and continue to be concerned for the safety of our community members across the country as violence toward Asian Americans has escalated. Elected officials in Georgia must support these families and speak up immediately against hate and violence directed at the Asian American community.”
US Rep. Judy Chu of California wrote Wednesday that she was devastated to learn about the shootings, and that the Asian American community “has been facing a relentless increase in attacks and harassment over the past year.”
“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,” she posted on Twitter.
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 retlentless increase in attacks and harassment over the past year..(1/2) https://t.co/HXfpS8bvmK
— Judy Chu (@RepJudyChu) March 17, 2021
In New York, the NYPD’s Counterterrorism Bureau said on Twitter it will also deploy additional officers to protect Asian communities in the city “out of an abundance of caution.”
#NYPDCT is monitoring the shooting of Asian Americans in Georgia. While there is no known nexus to #NYC we will be deploying assets to our great Asian communities across the city out of an abundance of caution. #SeeSomethingSaySomething pic.twitter.com/Vl87DPRR8m
— NYPDCounterterrorism (@NYPDCT) March 17, 2021
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms issued the following statement:
I commend law enforcement for their quick work in arresting a suspect in the tragic shootings on yesterday. A motive is still not clear, but a crime against any community is a crime against us all. I have remained in close contact with the White House and APD as they work with federal, state and local partners to investigate the suspect who is responsible for this senseless violence in our city.
My prayers are with the families and friends of the victims whose lives were cut short by these shootings.
NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson condemned the shooting “in the strongest possible terms.”
©2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. CNN contributed to the story.