Respect Equality

Eight killed in Atlanta-area massage parlor shooting, among them six Asian women

Story at a glance

  • Eight people were shot and killed in Atlanta massage parlors on Tuesday.
  • Six of those killed were Asian women.
  • A report by Stop AAPI Hate documented 3,800 reports of attacks targeting Asian Americans nationwide since last March.

Eight people were killed in a series of shootings in the Atlanta area on Tuesday. The horrific series of events unfolded within an hour, as a shooter likely made their way to three massage parlors in the area. 

Atlanta police said they found five people who were shot inside Youngs Asian Massage Parlor, two of whom died on the scene and three who were transported to the hospital where two of them also died. All four of those who died were Asian women. 

Just under an hour later police responded to a call of robbery in progress at another massage parlor in nearby Cherokee County. Three more people were found dead. While they were at the scene police quickly learned of another shooting in progress across the street at Aromatherapy Spa, finding a woman who was shot dead inside. 

“It appears that they may be Asian,” said Atlanta Police Chief Rodney Bryant after finding the body of a woman shot dead at Aromatherapy Spa.

Six of the people killed were Asian, leading many to believe the crimes were racially motivated. All but one were women. 

Social justice organization Stop AAPI Hate, which was launched in an effort to prevent anti-Asian discrimination during the coronavirus pandemic, called the shootings “an unspeakable tragedy” for the victims’ families, as well as an AsianAmerican community that has “been reeling from high levels of racist attacks.”

According to the group, there have been nearly 3,800 reports of hate incidents targeting Asian Americans nationwide since last March, and Tuesday’s shootings “will only exacerbate the fear and pain that the Asian-American community continues to endure.”

The suspect in custody is white. Atlanta police said that based on video evidence, the suspect was likely involved in the shootings at all three massage parlors, although they are still working to confirm the connection.

“It’s for sure disturbing,” a local said to The New York Times. “But even more so if it’s related to an anti-Asian factor from the Covid pandemic.” 

The Times also reported that the percentage of Asian Americans in Georgia has grown in recent decades, with about 7.6 percent of residents in Fulton County, which includes Atlanta, being of Asian descent.

“My heart is broken tonight after the tragic violence in Atlanta that took eight lives,” tweeted Georgia Sen. Raphael Warnock. “Once again we see that hate is deadly. Praying for the families of the victims and for peace for the community.”

Cities step up their community protection

In cities like Seattle, police departments are beginning to ramp up their presence in Asian communities. Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and Chief of Police Adrian Diaz released a statement Tuesday after the shootings, condemning the gruesome attack as “an act of hate.”

“We grieve with Atlanta and for the victims and their families. We also stand together with our Asian American community against the rise of hate crimes towards Asian Americans, especially targeting Chinese Americans. In Seattle and across our nation, our Asian American neighbors, places of worship, and businesses have been deliberately targeted by racism, xenophobia, and acts of violence related to misconceptions of COVID-19.”

In the same statement it was also announced that the police department would increase patrols and outreach to support the city’s Asian American community. 

In New York City, the The New York Police Department’s Counterterrorism Bureau announced on Twitter that it would “be deploying assets to our great Asian communities across the city out of an abundance of caution.”

“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,” the bureau wrote.