Mar 22, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Atlanta gunman charged with "malice murder" and aggravated assault

Photo of flowers and a note sitting at the foot of a wall

Members of the Bad Asian and Civic Walls groups paint a mural near Krog Street Tunnel in Atlanta in remembrance of the eight lives lost at the three spa shootings last week. Photo: Megan Varner via Getty Images

The 21-year-old white man who confessed to opening fire at three Atlanta-area spas and killing eight people, including six Asian women, has been charged with "malice murder" and aggravated assault, a county sheriff said Monday.

Why it matters: The killings spurred nationwide outrage over anti-Asian violence in the U.S. Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) leaders and public officials have called for police to rule the shootings a hate crime, arguing that law enforcement are unable to recognize a case of anti-Asian hate.

Details: Robert Aaron Long already faced eight charges of murder. The Cherokee Sheriff's Office also earlier charged him with one count of assault.

  • Malice murder is an offense in Georgia alleging implied or express malice. It's unclear whether a racial motive has been ruled out.

What they're saying: "In an effort to preserve the case for prosecution, the Cherokee Sheriff’s Office will not be making any additional comments about this case at this time," the sheriff's office said in a statement to news outlets.

The big picture: Anti-Asian racism has been on the rise since the pandemic started, with Asian women more than twice as likely to report hate incidents than Asian men, per Stop AAPI Hate.

  • Over 183 national organizations led by AAPI groups are calling on President Biden to set aside $300 million for addressing anti-Asian hate.
  • Last week, the president urged passage of the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, which would improve hate crime tracking and tap a Justice Department official for reviewing COVID-related hate crimes, among other things.

Go deeper: Why attacks against the AAPI community are difficult to prosecute as hate crimes

Go deeper