A white gunman was charged Wednesday with killing eight people at three massage parlors in the Atlanta area in an attack that sent terror to the Asian American community that has been increasingly targeted during the coronavirus pandemic.
Robert Aaron Long, 21, told police that Tuesday’s attack was not racially motivated and claimed to have a “sex addiction,” and authorities said he apparently lashed out at what he saw as sources of temptation. His parents called the police after authorities released his photo, which aided in his capture.
Six of the victims were of Asian descent and seven were women.
The shootings appear to be at the “intersection of gender-based violence, misogyny and xenophobia,” said State Representative Bee Nguyen, the first Vietnamese American to serve in the Georgia House and a frequent advocate for the women and communities of Georgia. color.
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said regardless of the shooter’s motivation, “it’s unacceptable, it’s hateful, and it has to stop.”
Authorities said they did not know if Long ever went to the massage parlors where the shootings occurred, but that he was heading to Florida to attack “some kind of porn industry.”
“Apparently he has a problem, which he considers a sex addiction, and he sees these places as something that allows him to go to these places, and it is a temptation for him that he wanted to eliminate,” said Cherokee County Sheriff’s Capt. Jay. Baker. reporters.
One day after the shootings, investigators were trying to unravel what may have forced a 21-year-old man described as “super nice” and “super Christian” by a high school classmate to commit the worst mass killing in the United States. USA In almost two years.
Sheriff Frank Reynolds said it was too early to tell if the attack was racially motivated, “but the indicators at this point are that it may not be.”
The Atlanta mayor said police have not been to her city’s massage parlors beyond a possible petty theft.
“We certainly won’t start blaming the victims,” Bottoms said.
The attack was the sixth mass murder this year in the United States, and the deadliest since the August 2019 shooting in Dayton, Ohio, which left nine people dead, according to a database compiled by The Associated Press, USA Today and Northeastern University.
There follows a hiatus in mass killings during the 2020 pandemic, which had the smallest number of such attacks in more than a decade, according to the database, which tracks mass killings defined as four or more dead, not including the shooter.
The killings horrified the Asian American community, which viewed the shootings as an attack on them, given a recent wave of assaults that coincided with the spread of the coronavirus across the United States. The virus was first identified in China, and then-President Donald Trump and others have used racially charged terms to describe it.
The attacks began when five people were shot at the Youngs Asian Massage parlor near Woodstock, about 30 miles north of Atlanta, authorities said. Four of them died.
The manager of a boutique next door said her husband saw surveillance video after the shooting and that the suspect sat in his car for an hour before entering.
They heard screams and women running from the business, said Rita Barron, manager of Gabby’s Boutique.
The same car was then seen about 30 miles away in Atlanta, where it received a call about a robbery at Gold Spa and three women were shot and killed. Another woman was fatally shot at the aromatherapy spa across the street.
Long was arrested hours later by Crisp County agents and state troopers. He refused to stop on a highway and officers struck the back of his car, causing it to crash, Sheriff Billy Hancock said.
Officers found Long with the help of his parents, who recognized him from surveillance footage released by authorities and gave investigators his cell phone information, which they used to track him down, said Reynolds, the county sheriff. Cherokee.
“They are very distraught and were a great help in this apprehension,” he said.
President Joe Biden said the FBI reported it, noting that Asian Americans are concerned about a recent spike in violence. He called the attack “very, very troublesome.”
“We are still not clear why. But I do want to tell our Asian American community that we are with you and we understand how this has scared, shocked and outraged everyone, ”said Vice President Kamala Harris, the first Black and South Asian woman to serve.
Over the past year, thousands of incidents of abuse have been reported to an anti-hate group that tracks incidents against Asian-Americans, and hate crimes overall are at the highest level in more than a decade.
“While the details of the shootings are still emerging, the larger context cannot be ignored,” Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Atlanta said in a statement. “The shootings occurred under the trauma of escalating violence against Asian Americans across the country, fueled by white supremacy and systemic racism.”
Nico Straughan met Long when he moved to the area in seventh grade, saying Long brought a Bible to school every day and was “super nice, super Christian, very quiet.”
“I don’t know what change of heart he might have had, but he went from being one of the nicest kids I met in high school to being in the news,” Straughan said. “I mean all my friends, we were stunned.”
The American Psychiatric Association does not recognize sex addiction in its main reference guide for mental disorders. While some people struggle to control their sexual behaviors, it is often related to other recognized disorders or moral views on sexuality, said David Ley, clinical psychologist and author of “The Myth of Sex Addiction.”
“These labeled sexual behaviors are a symptom, not a cause,” Ley said.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism