Atlanta police: Too early to determine massage parlor shootings a hate crime

Atlanta police on Wednesday said it was too early to determine whether the shootings at massage parlors in the city constitute a hate crime.

“We’ve received a number of calls about, is this a hate crime? We’re still early in this investigation, so we cannot make that determination at this moment. Again, we are very early in this investigation,” Rodney Bryant, acting chief of the Atlanta Police Department, said at a press conference.

Police on Tuesday evening arrested Robert Aaron Long, the suspected gunman, after a shooting spree that left eight people dead, six of whom were Asian. He later took responsibility for the shootings, authorities said.

Long, who is white, claimed the attacks were not racially motivated, according to authorities, adding that the 21-year-old suspect said he has a “sexual addiction.”

The Atlanta Police Department, FBI and the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office interviewed Long, a resident of Woodstock, Ga., on Tuesday night.

Long indicated that he “may have frequented some of these places in the past,” Sheriff Frank Reynolds of the Cherokee Sheriff’s Office said, referring to the massage parlors.

According to authorities, Long said he saw the massage parlors as a “temptation” that he wanted to “eliminate.”

“He apparently has an issue, what he considers a sex addiction, and sees these locations as something that allows him to go to these places and is a temptation for him that he wanted to eliminate,” said Capt. Jay Baker of the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office.

While it’s unclear whether the shooting will be labeled a hate crime, the attacks added to already heightened tensions around violence and discrimination focused on Asian Americans amid the coronavirus pandemic. Earlier this week, NBC News reported that there were nearly 3,800 incidents of bias against Asian Americans reported over the past 12 months.

Following the police press conference on Wednesday, lawmakers acknowledged the shooting and its victims, warning against the surge in hate and violence against Asian Americans.

Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) pointed to the former Trump administration, accusing the former president of increasing tensions against the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community. 

“One year ago, we had a former President and White House officials inflaming hate against Asian Americans. Some elected officials continue to use ethnic identifiers in describing the virus, which adds fuel to the hate. If you are one of those officials, please stop,” Lieu stated. 

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) stated that the city of Atlanta was “shocked” by a series of shootings.

We can’t lose our vigilance against the forces of hate, bigotry, discrimination—We must #StopAsianHate And we must move forward on legislation to help stop the gun violence epidemic,” Schumer continued. 

The Democratic National Committee said that, “We’ve seen an unprecedented rise in violence against AAPI communities that has no place in America, and we unequivocally stand against racism and xenophobia in all its manifestations.”

President Biden indicated that he acknowledged the concerns of Asian Americans following the shooting, but stated that he is waiting for the FBI to complete its investigation to determine motivation of the shooter. 

Officials in Georgia said they determined that Long was on his way to Florida, with plans to commit similar crimes.

“He made a comment to that effect, that he was headed to Florida, and that he was going to do similar acts in that state,” Baker said.

When asked if there were any particular businesses that the suspect was targeting, Baker said it was his understanding that “it was some type of porn industry in that state that he was, wanted to go do some similar act in that location.”

Officers said that the family of the suspect helped locate him. After the incident, authorities quickly identified a potential suspect from surveillance video and posted a photo to social media. Shortly thereafter, the family of the suspect reached out.

According to Reynolds, officers tracked the suspect’s phone.

The shooting first began at Young’s Asian Massage in Acworth, a northwest suburb of Atlanta, at roughly 5 p.m. Four people were killed in that attack.

Soon after, at 5:47 p.m., authorities responded to a robbery at a massage parlor in the northeastern part of the city, where three women were found dead.

While still on scene, officers received a call of a separate shooting across the street, where another woman was found dead, according to the Atlanta Police Department.

Updated at 3:27 p.m.

Tags Asian Americans Atlanta Chuck Schumer Florida Georgia Hate crime Joe Biden Shooting Ted Lieu
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