Updated Mar 17, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Georgia massage parlor shootings: What we know

 Law enforcement personnel are seen outside a massage parlor where a person was shot and killed on March 16, 2021, in Atlanta, Georgia.
Law enforcement personnel outside a massage parlor where a person was shot and killed in Atlanta, Georgia, on Tuesday. Photo: Elijah Nouvelage/AFP via Getty Images

A suspect faces murder and assault charges after eight people were killed and one person was injured in three separate shooting incidents at massage parlors in the Atlanta metropolitan area on Tuesday evening.

What's new: Robert Aaron Long, a 21-year-old white man from Woodstock, Georgia, faces eight counts of murder and is being held without bond, per the Cherokee County Sheriff's office.

  • The Sheriff's office charged him with one count of assault and four counts of murder. The Atlanta Police Department charged him with four counts of murder. 

What they're saying: Atlanta Police are still investigating whether the shootings, in which six of the victims were Asian women, was a hate crime.

  • Cherokee County Sheriff Frank Reynolds said officers interviewed the suspect on Tuesday and that he "made indicators that he has some issues, potentially sexual addiction, and may have frequented some of these places in the past."
  • Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms added that the suspect told police he was on his way to Florida, potentially to carry out additional shootings.
  • Advocacy groups including Stop AAPI Hate have denounced the lethal incident as the latest in a spree of increased violence targeting Asian Americans since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

Driving the news: Georgia law enforcement officials said all victims except for one were women, and six were of Asian descent. Officials in Seoul said four of the victims were of South Korean descent. There are concerns that the attacks were racially motivated, per the New York Times.

What we know: The Cherokee County Sheriff's office said Robert Aaron Long, a 21-year-old white man from Woodstock, Georgia, was arrested Tuesday night and charged with murder. The FBI is assisting Atlanta and Cherokee County authorities in the investigation.

  • The attacks began about 5pm at Youngs Asian Massage Parlor, some 30 miles north of Atlanta, Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office said. Two people died at the scene and three were taken to the hospital, where two of them died.
  • About 50 minutes after the first shooting, police responding to reports of a robbery found three women had been shot dead at Gold Spa in the Buckhead neighborhood of Atlanta.
  • While there, they received reports of shots fired at the Aromatherapy Spa across the street. When they arrived, they found the body of a woman with gunshot wounds.
  • The Atlanta Police Department said in a statement that video footage indicates "it is extremely likely" that the same person was responsible for all three shootings.
  • President Biden was briefed on the shooting overnight, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Wednesday morning. Officials at the White House have been in touch with the Atlanta mayor's office and FBI.

The big picture: Following the Atlanta shootings, police in New York and Seattle announced they were increasing the presence of law enforcement in Asian American communities.

  • Reporting center Stop AAPI Hate said in a statement while it was not immediately clear whether the Georgia shootings were motivated by hate, there's "a great deal of fear and pain in the Asian American community ... which has been reeling from high levels of racial discrimination."
  • The group published a report earlier Tuesday showing violence against Asian Americans has continued to spike, with women more than twice as likely to report hate incidents than men.

What they're saying: Vice President Kamala Harris addressed the incident during a virtual meeting with the Irish Prime Minister: "Knowing the increasing level of hate crime against our Asian American brothers and sisters, we also want to speak out in solidarity with them and acknowledge that none of us should ever be silent in the face of any form of hate."

  • "We're not yet clear about the motive. But I do want to say to our Asian American community that we stand with you and understand how this has frightened and shocked and outraged all people," Harris said.
  • Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) tweeted, "My heart is broken tonight after the tragic violence in Atlanta that took eight lives. Once again we see that hate is deadly. Praying for the families of the victims and for peace for the community."

Editor's note: This article has been updated with new details throughout.

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