Authorities in the Atlanta area say the man arrested in connection with three deadly shootings at local spas has “taken responsibility” and that he may have targeted businesses that he had frequented in the past.
The suspect, Robert Aaron Long, was arrested in Crisp County Tuesday. The 21-year-old is facing eight counts of murder, four for the victims killed in Cherokee County and four for the victims in the city of Atlanta. He's also facing at least one count of aggravated assault.
At a press conference on Wednesday, Crisp County Sheriff Billy Hancock said his deputies had interviewed Long after he was taken into custody on Tuesday night.
“He has some issues, potentially sexual issues,” Hancock said. “He may have frequented some of these places in the past."
Hancock added that Long claimed he was seeking to "eliminate temptation."
Other officials in attendance, including Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, said there is no evidence yet to indicate that the businesses were acting illegally, adding that none were “on the radar” of Atlanta police.
“We don’t want to victim-blame,” Lance Bottoms said.
Lance Bottoms added that Long indicated that he was planning to travel to Florida following the third shooting on Tuesday night. She added that if Long had not been apprehended, there could have been more victims.
Six of the eight victims killed in Tuesday’s shootings were of Asian descent, leading to speculation that the slayings may have been among the rising rates of hate crimes against Asians amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Long reportedly told Crisp County sheriff's deputies that he was not motivated. However, officials have not ruled out the possibility of a hate crime designation.
"We are still early in this investigation, so we cannot make a determination at this moment," Atlanta Police Chief Rodney Bryant said.
Lance Bottoms extended her condolences to the Asian community in Atlanta, adding that “a crime against any community is a crime against us all.”
"It is unacceptable, it is hateful and it has to stop," Lance Bottoms said of the rise in hate crimes against Asians across the country.
The first two shootings occurred at parlors located across the street from each other in northeast Atlanta around 5 p.m. ET, where four people were killed. The other took place about 30 miles away in Cherokee County, at around 8:30 p.m. ET, where an additional four people were killed.
The four people killed in Cherokee County have been identified as 33-year-old Delaina Ashley Yaun of Acworth, 54-year-old Paul Andre Michels of Atlanta, 49-year-old Xiaojie Yan of Kennesaw, and 44-year-old Daoyou Feng. The Cherokee County Sheriff's Office listed a fifth victim as injured, a 30-year-old from Acworth.
The Atlanta Police Department says the victims of the homicides in the city have not been positively identified and next of kin notification has not yet been confirmed.
Long was arrested Tuesday evening in connection with shootings in Crisp County, Georgia, located south of Atlanta. He was taken into custody after a short chase on Interstate 75 and officials say a 9mm firearm was recovered from the vehicle.
Long is now being held without bond at the Cherokee County Adult Detention Center.