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A man has been charged with the murders of eight people at massage parlors in Georgia.

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A man has been charged with the murders of eight people at massage parlors in Georgia.
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A man has been charged with the murders of eight people at massage parlors in Georgia.

A man has been charged with the murders of eight people at massage parlors in Georgia.

 

A white gunman was charged on Wednesday with murdering eight people at three massage parlors in the Atlanta area, an assault that terrified the Asian American community, which has been increasingly targeted during the coronavirus pandemic.

Investigators were still trying to figure out what drove 21-year-old Robert Aaron Long to commit the worst mass killing in the United States in almost two years a day after the shootings.

Long told cops that the assault on Tuesday was not racially motivated. He appeared to have a “sex addiction,” and authorities said he allegedly reacted violently to what he perceived to be sources of temptation. Given the locations and the fact that six of the eight victims were Asian women, those comments sparked anger and widespread skepticism.

According to state Rep. Bee Nguyen, the first Vietnamese American to serve in the Georgia House and a regular spokesperson for women and communities of color, the shootings tend to be at the “intersection of gender-based violence, bigotry, and xenophobia.”

“It is unacceptable, it is hateful, and it has to stop,” Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said, regardless of the shooter’s motive.

Long was going to Florida to target “some kind of porn industry,” authorities said. They didn’t know whether he ever went to the massage parlors where the shootings happened.

“He seems to have a sex addiction,” Cherokee County sheriff’s Capt. Jay Baker told reporters. “He sees these locations as something that makes him to go to these places, and it’s a lure for him that he wanted to eliminate.”

Baker was chastised for saying that Long was having a “particularly bad day” and that “this is what he did.” Last year, a Facebook page claiming to be Baker’s advertised a T-shirt with racist language about China and the coronavirus.

Baker was featured in a number of images on Baker’s Facebook page dating back months, including one of him in uniform outside the sheriff’s office. Baker did not immediately respond to voicemails or an email requesting comment after the account was deleted on Wednesday night. A message left with the sheriff’s office was also not returned.

Meanwhile, Sheriff Frank Reynolds said it was too early to say if the attack was racially motivated, but that “the signs right now are it might not be.”

The mayor of Atlanta stated that police have not visited massage parlors in her city other than to investigate a minor alleged burglary.

Bottoms said, “We will not begin to blame victims.”

According to a database collected by The Associated Press, USA Today, and Northeastern University, the attack was the sixth mass killing in the United States this year, and the worst since a shooting in Dayton, Ohio, in August 2019 that killed nine people.

According to the database, which monitors mass killings identified as four or more dead, not including the gunman, there was a lull in mass killings during the pandemic in 2020, with the fewest such attacks in more than a decade.

Given a recent surge of assaults that coincided with the spread of the coronavirus across the United States, the Asian American community saw the shootings as an attack on them. The virus was first discovered in China, and it was described in racially charged terms by then-President Donald Trump and others.

Five people were shot at Youngs Asian Massage Parlor near Woodstock, Georgia, about 30 miles (50 kilometers) north of Atlanta, according to authorities. There were four people who died: Delaina is a 33-year-old woman. The company was managed by Ashley Yaun, 54-year-old Paul Andre Michels, 44-year-old Daoyou Feng, and 49-year-old Xiaojie Tan.

Margaret Rushing, Yaun’s mother, told WAGA-TV that Yaun and her husband went to the spa on a date. Yaun has a 13-year-old son and an eight-month-old daughter.

Dana Toole, Yaun’s half-sister, said her husband locked himself in a room and was unharmed.

Toole said, “He’s taking it hard.” “He was present. He heard everything, including the gunshots. You can’t get away from it while you’re in a room with gunshots going off — what do you do?”

After the shooting, the manager of a boutique next door said her husband watched surveillance footage, and the gunman stayed in his car for up to an hour before going inside.

According to Rita Barron, manager of Gabby’s Boutique, they heard shouting and women fleeing the establishment.

The same car was then seen about 30 miles (48 kilometers) away in Atlanta, where three people were shot to death during a robbery at Gold Spa. Another woman was fatally shot across the street at the Aromatherapy Spa.

Crisp County deputies and state troopers arrested Long hours later. Sheriff Billy Hancock said he refused to brake on a highway and officers bumped the back of his vehicle, causing him to crash.

Long was identified thanks to his parents’ assistance, who recognized him from surveillance footage posted by authorities and provided investigators with his smartphone records, which they used to track him down, according to Sheriff Reynolds of Cherokee County.

He said, “They’re very distraught, and they’ve been very supportive in this apprehension.”

The attack was described as “very, very troubling” by Vice President Joe Biden.

“We don’t know what the motivation is yet, but we do know that the Asian-American community is in a lot of pain tonight. The latest anti-community attacks are un-American. They have to stop,” Biden said in a tweet on Wednesday.

“We stand with you and appreciate how this has scared, shocked, and appalled all people,” Vice President Kamala Harris, the first Black and South Asian woman in the White House, said.

Thousands of cases of violence against Asian Americans have been identified to an anti-hate group in the last year, and hate crimes in general are at their highest level in more than a decade.

In a statement, Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Atlanta said, “Although the specifics of the shootings are still emerging, the wider meaning cannot be overlooked.” “The shootings occurred amid an uptick in violence against Asian Americans around the country, fuelled by white supremacy and institutional racism.”

Long was “super sweet, super Christian, very quiet,” according to Nico Straughan, who met him in seventh grade when he moved to the city. Long carried a Bible to school every day and was “super nice, super Christian, very quiet,” according to Nico.

“I’m not sure what happened to his heart, but he went from being one of the nicest kids I ever met in high school to being on the news,” Straughan said. “I say, all of my friends were taken aback.”

In its primary reference guide for mental illnesses, the American Psychiatric Association does not accept sex addiction. According to David Ley, clinical psychologist and author of “The Myth of Sex Addiction,” although some people fail to regulate their sexual behaviors, it’s also related to other recognized problems or moral beliefs regarding sexuality.

“This labeling of sexual activities is a symptom, not a cause,” Ley explained.

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