A Tuesday-night shooting spree at three Atlanta-area spas that left eight people dead, including six Asian-American women, may not have been racially motivated as previously thought, officials said Wednesday.
Shooting suspect Robert Aaron Long took “full responsibility” for the shootings, police said, adding that while the rampage was initially believed to be part of a rising number of hate crimes against Asian Americans, Long allegedly opened fire at the spas because he saw them as “an outlet for him” to feed a sex-addiction temptation that he was trying to “eliminate.”
Long “may have frequented some of these place in the past,” Cherokee County Sheriff Frank Reynolds told reporters.
The suspect allegedly shot five people at Young’s Asian Massage Parlor near Woodstock, about 30 miles north of Atlanta, according to Cherokee County Sheriff’s spokesman Capt. Jay Baker. Two people died at the scene and three were taken to a hospital where two died, Baker said.
Roughly one hour later, police responded to a robbery call where they discovered three women dead from apparent gunshot wounds at Gold Spa near Atlanta’s Buckhead area. Officers then responded to a call reporting shots fired across the street at Aromatherapy Spa and found another woman apparently shot dead.
The 21-year-old was allegedly headed to Florida when he was arrested on Tuesday night in Crisp County, roughly 150 miles south of Atlanta. He was possibly going to “carry out additional shootings,” according to Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms.
Authorities said they can’t officially determine a motive for the shootings at this time and it is too early in the investigation to say whether the attacks had been a hate crime.
The shooting comes as elected officials warn of a surge in anti-Asian hate crimes driven by hostility about the coronavirus pandemic, which originated in China.
Editor’s Note: A previous version of this article said that eight women were killed in the shooting, when in fact seven women and one man were killed in the shooting. We regret the error.