Atlanta-area shootings leave 8 dead, many of Asian descent

Officials stand in front of a massage parlor after a shooting, Tuesday, March 16, 2021, in Atlanta. Shootings at two massage parlors in Atlanta and one in the suburbs left multiple people dead, many of them women of Asian descent, authorities said. A 21-year-old man suspected in the shootings was taken into custody in southwest Georgia hours later after a manhunt, police said. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)Officials stand in front of a massage parlor after a shooting, Tuesday, March 16, 2021, in Atlanta. Shootings at two massage parlors in Atlanta and one in the suburbs left multiple people dead, many of them women of Asian descent, authorities said. A 21-year-old man suspected in the shootings was taken into custody in southwest Georgia hours later after a manhunt, police said. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
A police officer watches as a body is taken from the Gold Spa massage parlor after a shooting, late Tuesday, March 16, 2021, in Atlanta. Shootings at two massage parlors in Atlanta and one in the suburbs left multiple people dead, many of them women of Asian descent, authorities said. A 21-year-old man suspected in the shootings was taken into custody in southwest Georgia hours later after a manhunt, police said. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)A police officer watches as a body is taken from the Gold Spa massage parlor after a shooting, late Tuesday, March 16, 2021, in Atlanta. Shootings at two massage parlors in Atlanta and one in the suburbs left multiple people dead, many of them women of Asian descent, authorities said. A 21-year-old man suspected in the shootings was taken into custody in southwest Georgia hours later after a manhunt, police said. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
A body is taken out of Gold Spa massage parlor after a shooting, late Tuesday, March 16, 2021, in Atlanta. Shootings at two massage parlors in Atlanta and one in the suburbs left multiple people dead, many of them women of Asian descent, authorities said. A 21-year-old man suspected in the shootings was taken into custody in southwest Georgia hours later after a manhunt, police said. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)A body is taken out of Gold Spa massage parlor after a shooting, late Tuesday, March 16, 2021, in Atlanta. Shootings at two massage parlors in Atlanta and one in the suburbs left multiple people dead, many of them women of Asian descent, authorities said. A 21-year-old man suspected in the shootings was taken into custody in southwest Georgia hours later after a manhunt, police said. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

A series of shootings over nearly an hour at three Atlanta-area massage parlours left eight people dead and raised fears that the attack was another hate crime against Asian Americans.

Police arrested a white 21-year-old Georgia man and said the motive for Tuesday night’s attacks wasn’t immediately known, though many of the victims were women of Asian descent.

“We’re in a place where we’ve seen an increase in hate crimes against Asian Americans since the pandemic started,” said Georgia state Rep. Bee Nguyen. “It’s hard to think it is not targeted specifically toward our community.”

The attacks began Tuesday evening, when five people were shot at Youngs Asian Massage Parlor near Woodstock, about 30 miles (50 kilometres) north of Atlanta, Cherokee County Sheriff’s spokesman Capt. Jay Baker said. Two people died at the scene, and three were taken to a hospital where two died, Baker said.

About an hour later, police responding to a call about a robbery found three women dead from apparent gunshot wounds at Gold Spa near Atlanta’s Buckhead area, where tattoo parlours and strip clubs are just blocks away from mansions and skyscrapers in one of the last ungentrified holdouts in that part of the city. Officers then learned of a call reporting shots fired across the street, at Aromatherapy Spa, and found another woman apparently shot dead.

“It appears that they may be Asian,” Atlanta Police Chief Rodney Bryant said.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said President Joe Biden has been briefed on the “horrific shootings” and would receive an update later Wednesday from Attorney General Merrick Garland and FBI Director Christopher Wray.

Little is known about the suspect, Robert Aaron Long, of Woodstock, and authorities haven’t specified charges.

While the motive for the attack also remained unclear, many members of the Asian American community saw the shootings as an attack on them, given a recent wave of assaults that coincided with the spread of the coronavirus across the United States. The virus was first identified in China, and then-President Donald Trump and others have used racially charged terms like “Chinese virus” to describe it.

Over the past year, thousands of incidents of abuse have been reported to an anti-hate group that tracks incidents against Asian Americans, and hate crimes in general are at the highest level in more than a decade.

“We are heartbroken by these acts of violence,” Asian Americans Advancing Justice — Atlanta said in a statement. “While the details of the shootings are still emerging, the broader context cannot be ignored. The shootings happened under the trauma of increasing violence against Asian Americans nationwide, fueled by white supremacy and systemic racism.”

Police in Atlanta and other major cities deplored the killings, and some said they would increase patrols in Asian American communities. Seattle’s mayor said “the violence in Atlanta was an act of hate,” and San Francisco police tweeted #StopAsianHate. The New York City Police counterterrorism unit said it was on alert for similar attacks.

Other civil liberties groups and prominent Americans also expressed their dismay. The Rev. Bernice King, daughter of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., said she’s “deeply saddened that we live in a nation and world permeated by hate and violence. I stand with Asian members of our World House, who are a part of our global human family.”

Former President Barack Obama regretted that “even as we’ve battled the pandemic, we’ve continued to neglect the longer-lasting epidemic of gun violence in America.” While acknowledging that the shooter’s motive was not known, he said “the identity of the victims underscores an alarming rise in anti-Asian violence that must end.”

Surveillance video recorded a man pulling up to the Cherokee County business about 10 minutes before the attack there, and the same car was spotted outside the Atlanta businesses, authorities said. A manhunt was launched, and Long was taken into custody in Crisp County, about 150 miles (240 kilometres) south of Atlanta, Baker said.

Video evidence “suggests it is extremely likely our suspect is the same as Cherokee County’s, who is in custody,” Atlanta police said in a statement.

South Korea’s Foreign Ministry said in statement Wednesday that its diplomats in Atlanta have confirmed with police that four of the victims who died were women of Korean descent. The ministry said its Consulate General in Atlanta is trying to confirm the nationality of the women.

FBI spokesman Kevin Rowson said the agency is assisting Atlanta and Cherokee County authorities in the investigation.

Crisp County Sheriff Billy Hancock said in a video posted on Facebook that his deputies and state troopers were notified Tuesday night that a murder suspect out of north Georgia was headed their way. Deputies and troopers set up along the interstate and “made contact with the suspect,” he said.

A state trooper performed a PIT (pursuit intervention technique) manoeuvre “which caused the vehicle to spin out of control,” Hancock said. Long was then taken into custody “without incident.”

Crisp County sheriff’s spokeswoman Haley Wade said Wednesday morning that Long, who is white, is no longer in their custody and that her office has turned over its information to the other Georgia agencies and the FBI.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who is in South Korea meeting with Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong, mentioned the killings during an opening statement.

“We are horrified by this violence which has no place in America or anywhere,” he said.

“Our entire family is praying for the victims of these horrific acts of violence,” Gov. Brian Kemp said Tuesday evening on Twitter.

___

Associated Press writers Kim Tong-hyung in Seoul and Zeke Miller in Washington contributed to the this story.

Kate Brumback, The Associated Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

ShootingUSA

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

This Earth Day, Cowichan Valley residents are being asked to clean up where they are. (File photo)
Cowichan ‘Clean Where You Are’ campaign starts on Earth Day

Take a bag, one glove, long tongs, and go pick up!

City of Duncan considering an average 3.51 per cent tax increase for 2021. (File photo)
Duncan considers average 3.51% tax increase for 2021

Homeowners would see a $43 increase over last year

North Cowichan councillor Kate Marsh. (File photo)
North Cowichan postpones decision on cell tower placement

But cell tower policy may be developed soon

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson outlines the province’s three-year budget in Victoria, April 20, 2021. (B.C. government video)
B.C. deficit to grow by $19 billion for COVID-19 recovery spending

Pandemic-year deficit $5 billion lower than forecast

B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry speaks at a press conference Monday, April 18. (B.C. Government image)
New COVID-19 cases tick down on the central Island

New cases held to single digits three days in a row

FILE – NDP Leader John Horgan, right, and local candidate Mike Farnworth greet one another with an elbow bump during a campaign stop in Coquitlam, B.C., on Friday, September 25, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. won’t be using random individual road stops to enforce travel rules: Safety Minister

Minister Mike Farnworth says travel checks only being considered at major highway junctions, ferry ports

A man pauses at a coffin after carrying it during a memorial march to remember victims of overdose deaths in Vancouver. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. announces historic half-billion-dollar funding for overdose crisis, mental health

Of it, $152 million will be used to address the opioid crisis and see the creation of 195 new substance use treatment beds

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Children’s backpacks and shoes are seen at a CEFA (Core Education and Fine Arts) Early Learning daycare franchise, in Langley, B.C., on Tuesday May 29, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. budget to expand $10-a-day child care, but misses the mark on ‘truly universal’ system

$111 million will be used to fund 3,750 new $10-a-day spaces though 75 additional ChildCareBC universal prototype sites over the next three years.

Mak Parhar speaks at an anti-mask rally outside the Vancouver Art Gallery on Sunday, Nov. 1, 2020. Parhar was arrested on Nov. 2 and charged with allegedly violating the Quarantine Act after returning from a Flat Earth conference held in Geenville, South Carolina on Oct. 24. (Flat Earth Focker/YouTube.com screenshot)
Judge tosses lawsuit of B.C. COVID-denier who broke quarantine after Flat Earth conference

Mak Parhar accused gov, police of trespass, malfeasance, extortion, terrorism, kidnapping and fraud

Ambulance paramedic in full protective gear works outside Lion’s Gate Hospital, March 23, 2020. Hospitals are seeing record numbers of COVID-19 patients more than a year into the pandemic. (The Canadian Press)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate declines, 849 cases Tuesday

Up to 456 people now in hospital, 148 in intensive care

Christy Clark, who was premier from 2011 to 2017, is the first of several present and past politicians to appear this month before the Cullen Commission, which is investigating the causes and impact of B.C.’s money-laundering problem over the past decade. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)
Christy Clark says she first learned of money-laundering spike in 2015

The former B.C. premier testified Tuesday she was concerned the problem was ‘apparently at an all-time high’

Most Read