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2021 Atlanta spa shootings

String of shootings in Atlanta, Georgia, United States

Top 10 2021 Atlanta spa shootings related articles

2021 Atlanta spa shootings
Part of mass shootings in the United States
LocationAtlanta and Acworth, Georgia, United States
Coordinates
DateMarch 16, 2021 (2021-03-16)
TargetSpas and massage parlors
Attack type
Mass shooting, shooting spree
Weapons9mm semi-automatic pistol
Deaths8
Injured1
MotiveUnder investigation
AccusedRobert Aaron Long[1]

On March 16, 2021, a series of mass shootings occurred at three spas or massage parlors in the metropolitan area of Atlanta, Georgia, United States. Eight people were killed, six of whom were women of Asian descent, and one other person was wounded. A suspect, 21-year-old Robert Aaron Long, was taken into custody later that day.

According to police, Long said he was motivated by a sexual addiction that was at odds with his religious beliefs. He had previously spent time in an evangelical treatment clinic for sex addiction. After the shootings, Long was charged with four counts of murder by the Atlanta Police Department (APD), and four counts of murder and one count of aggravated assault by the Cherokee County Sheriff's Office.

Although Long has not been charged with a hate crime, many commentators have characterized the shootings as a hate crime, noting the backdrop of rising anti-Asian sentiment in the United States during the COVID-19 pandemic and how intertwined racism and misogyny are for Asian women.

Events

Shootings

Surveillance footage showed the suspect, Robert Aaron Long, arriving at Young's Asian Massage, a massage parlor near Acworth, and sitting for an hour in the parking lot. He then entered the building at about 3:38 p.m. EDT and remained inside for a period of one hour and 12 minutes. Another customer who went to Young's that day said in an interview that everything was still normal when he arrived at around 4:40 p.m. Long left Young's at 4:50 p.m., and the first 9-1-1 calls reporting the shooting to the Cherokee County Sheriff's Office were made at 4:54 p.m.[2] Police arrived within minutes of Long leaving.[2] There, they found two people fatally shot and three others wounded; two of the wounded later died at a hospital.[3][4]

At 5:47 p.m. EDT, the APD responded to reports of a robbery at Gold Massage Spa[5] on Piedmont Road in northeast Atlanta, about 30 miles (48 km) from the first shooting scene. There, they found three women dead from gunshot wounds. While Atlanta police were at Gold Spa, they received reports of another shooting across the street at Aromatherapy Spa, where they discovered another woman shot and killed.[3][4][6][7] A Gold Spa employee who escaped from the store during the shooting stated that the shooter said that "I'm going to kill all Asians."[8][9] According to an eyewitness, the suspect shot the worker who opened the door of Aromatherapy Spa for him and fled without entering the interior.[10]

According to the APD, they noticed the similarities between the Piedmont Road and Acworth shootings and subsequently dispatched officers to patrol similar businesses in the area.[11] The Federal Bureau of Investigation was called in to assist in the investigation.[12]

Arrest

After the first shooting, Cherokee County police released surveillance footage and were contacted by Long's parents. While they were being interviewed, the APD was responding to the second and third shootings in Atlanta. His parents informed deputies that Long's Hyundai Tucson was equipped with a tracking device. Using surveillance footage of his vehicle at both crime scenes along with the car's tracker, police were able to find him.[13][14]

At around 8:30 p.m., roughly 3.5 hours after the shootings, Long was spotted by police in Crisp County, about 150 miles (240 km) south of Atlanta. Georgia State Patrol officers followed him south on Interstate 75 until a location just south of Cordele, where they used a PIT maneuver to stop his vehicle and took him into custody.[12][15] Long was on his way to Florida when he was apprehended.[16]

Long was initially arrested in connection to the Acworth shooting; police later identified him as a suspect in the Piedmont Road shootings as well.[3][6][11][17] Police found a 9 mm gun in his car.[14] It was discovered that Long had bought a gun hours before the shooting at Big Woods Goods, a firearms store in Holly Springs in Cherokee County.[18]

2021 Atlanta spa shootings Events articles: 11

Victims

The shooter killed eight people and wounded one. Six died at the scene, one en route to a hospital, and one in treatment.[19] Their ages ranged from 33 to 74, with five of the victims above 50.[20] Six victims, four at Piedmont Road and two at Acworth, were Asian women.[3] The others were a white woman and a white man, and the survivor is a Hispanic man.[3][4] The South Korean Foreign Affairs Ministry reported that four of the dead were of Korean ethnicity.[21]

The victims at Young's Asian Massage in Acworth included the business owner, a customer there with her husband for a couples massage, a handyman finishing a project, and an employee. The victims at the Gold Spa included the business owner. The other victims at the Atlanta locations included two spa employees and a manager.[22][23]

Overview of "Ministry of Foreign Affairs (South Korea)" article

Suspect

The suspect was identified as 21-year-old Robert Aaron Long of Woodstock.[13] He graduated from Sequoyah High School in 2017. From fall 2017 to fall 2018, Long was enrolled at Cumming campus of the University of North Georgia, but did not earn a degree or continue his enrollment.[19][24] Long was a hunter and his father was a youth minister or pastor.[19] Long was heavily involved in his Southern Baptist congregation.[25] Cherokee County Sheriff Frank Reynolds said Long did not have any prior interactions with law enforcement.[26]

Long spent time in an evangelical treatment facility for what he described as "sex addiction", a label used among some evangelicals for those that cannot control their sexual urges as expected.[27] He claimed to be "tortured" by his addiction to sex since he was "deeply religious", according to his halfway house roommate.[24][28] His roommate also said that several times during his stay at the halfway house, Long said that he had "relapsed" and gone to massage parlors to visit sex workers.[28] According to police, his parents had kicked him out of their house the night before the shooting due to concerns about his sex addiction, and had said he was watching Internet pornography for several hours each day. A report to police said that he "was emotional" after being evicted from his parents' house.[21][28]

Motive

No clear motive has been established. Long, who is white, said his actions were not racially motivated, and said he was driven by sex addiction at odds with his religious beliefs.[12][29][30] According to the Cherokee County sheriff, Long wanted to "eliminate the temptation" by targeting spas.[30][31]

According to a law enforcement source, Long said he had thought about killing himself but decided instead to "help" others dealing with sex addictions by targeting the spas, which he linked to commercial sex.[28][32] The New York Times reported that Long "seemed to have a fixation on sexual temptation, one that can lead to despair among people who believe they are failing to follow the ideal of refraining from sex and even lust outside heterosexual marriage."[33]

The American Psychological Association does not have sex addiction as a diagnosis in DSM-5 starting in 2012. Psychologist David J. Ley and neuroscientist Nicole Prause noted significant differences between sex addiction and other types of addiction. According to Ley, rehabilitation treatments focusing on the suppression of sexual thoughts such as the type experienced by Long are usually counterproductive. Psychotherapist Robert Weiss, who supports diagnosing people with sexual addiction, expressed doubt in making that diagnosis for Long because sex addicts are typically nonviolent.[34]

Police said Long equated the parlors to sex.[32] They said Long patronized the two Atlanta-based spas he also targeted.[27] It was reported that all three businesses were listed on an erotic review site, where users could review illicit spas.[35] Two of the massage parlors had been the site of 10 prostitution arrests, but none since 2013.[35]

Long was on his way to Florida when he was apprehended.[21][16] According to Bottoms, he was traveling to Florida with the intention of carrying out additional shootings; Reynolds said he was plotting to attack "some type of porn industry".[21][36]

Advocates and scholars have speculated the shootings may have an intersectional motive due to overlapping stigmas about race, gender, migrant work, and sex work.[32] It was noted the ethnicity of six of the victims, who were Asian women, amidst an increase in anti-Asian hate crimes in the United States during the COVID-19 pandemic, or have characterized it as a hate crime.[37][38] An eyewitness stated that the shooter said that "I'm going to kill all Asians."[8][9] Multiple experts have said race cannot be ruled out as a motive given Asian women are fetishized in American society.[39][40][41] According to sociologist Nancy Wang Yuen, factors contributing to this intertwining of racism and sexism for Asian-American women include the Page Act of 1875, which effectively banned all immigration to the United States by Chinese women on the basis that they were immoral prostitutes, the widespread availability of sex work around American military bases in Asia, and the portrayal of Asian women as prostitutes in media such as Full Metal Jacket and Miss Saigon.[42]

Legal proceedings

On March 17, 2021, Long was charged with four counts of murder by Atlanta police, and four counts of murder and one count of aggravated assault by the Cherokee County Sheriff's Office. According to the latter agency, he confessed to the killings while in custody.[12] Long's first court appearance, for his arraignment, was scheduled for March 18, but this was cancelled after he waived his right to appear.[43]

2021 Atlanta spa shootings Suspect articles: 26

Reactions

Government

Atlanta mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms urged solidarity with Asian-Americans and said that it would be appropriate for Long to be charged with a hate crime.[44] Georgia Governor Brian Kemp tweeted his condolences to the victims, praised police for the quick arrest, and said that there were indications of a hate crime, but that he would let investigators determine the facts before he offers his opinion.[13][45]

On March 17, 2021, President Joe Biden said he would wait for an investigation before commenting on Long's motives but condemned discrimination against Asian Americans.[38] On March 18, he ordered all U.S. flags at the White House, on other federal grounds, at military installations, on naval vessels, and at US diplomatic missions to be flown at half-mast until sunset on March 22 to respect the victims of the shooting.[46][47] He and Vice President Kamala Harris subsequently met with local Asian American community leaders on March 19 to discuss the shootings.[46][48] After the meeting, he gave a speech condemning rising hate crimes against Asian Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic and declared his support for the proposed Covid-19 Hate Crimes Act, which he claimed would facilitate tackling anti-Asian hate crimes.[48]

Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who were both in Seoul meeting their South Korean counterparts foreign minister Chung Eui-yong and national defense minister Suh Wook, held a joint press conference during which they condemned the attacks and expressed solidarity with the Korean community. Chung and Suh both expressed their regrets over the incident.[49][49][50][51]

To anti-Asian sentiment

Georgia House of Representatives member Sam Park urged Asian Americans who are facing discrimination to reach out to the police, politicians, and the public.[21] Another member, Bee Nguyen, said that violence against Asian Americans has increased in the last year and identified Donald Trump's use of the term "China Virus" to refer to COVID-19 as a causative factor.[52]

Asian-American basketball player Jeremy Lin accused Trump's rhetoric of inciting hatred.[53] A number of other athletes and public figures also made statements alleging racist motives in the attacks.[54][55]

The shootings prompted the Chinese Canadian National Council's Toronto chapter and other groups to issue a statement calling for action against rising anti-Asian sentiment in Canada during the COVID-19 pandemic and the discrimination and violence faced by Asian workers in massage parlors and the sex industry.[56] On March 17, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted an acknowledgement of the increasing racism faced by Asian Canadians and denounced such behavior.[57][58]

A spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry responded to a question about rising hate crimes targeting Asian Americans by calling for the U.S. to address its racism and discrimination and accusing "anti-China forces within the US" of "fanning racism and hatred [and] condoning discriminatory behaviors".[59]

Hate crime debate

The shootings sparked fears of lack of security among owners and employees of Asian-owned businesses across the U.S., a debate over hate crime definitions, and criticism of the current methods used to aggregate hate crime data in the country.[60][61] The New York City Police Department deployed counterterrorism officers to Asian American communities as a precaution due to the shootings.[62] Police patrols and community outreach efforts were also increased in Seattle.[21]

Representative Nguyen (D-GA) argued that Long should be charged with a hate crime, noting that a racial motivation would not be necessary to qualify since the law also applies to those who specifically target women.[52] President Joe Biden also condemned the attacks as a hate crime, and expressed his support for hate crimes legislation recently introduced into Congress.[63] Vice President Kamala Harris also called the shooting a hate crime.[64]

On March 18, the U.S. House of Representatives held a previously-scheduled congressional hearing on anti-Asian American discrimination, where Representative Chip Roy (R-TX) questioned whether the committee's attempts to prevent hate crimes and hate incidents against Asian Americans would hamper free speech. He claimed, "It seems to want to venture into the policing of rhetoric in a free society." His statement prompted criticism from Democrats.[65]

Advocates for sex workers said the shootings fueled fears over anti-sex-work ideology.[66]

Criticism of police captain's phrasing

During a press conference on the shootings, Captain Jay Baker of the Cherokee County Sheriff's Department said Long told police (paraphrased), "he was pretty much fed up and kind of at the end of his rope, and I guess it was a really bad day for him and this is what he did."[67] "Really bad day" attracted online criticism and led to the discovery of Baker's anti-China sentiments on Facebook,[68] thereby calling the integrity of the investigation into question.[69][70] Sheriff Reynolds acknowledged the criticism, expressed the agency's regret of Baker's words, and later removed him from a spokesman role. According to WSB-TV, the incident prompted the Cherokee County Sheriff Department to briefly consider handing off its role in the case to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.[71][72]

2021 Atlanta spa shootings Reactions articles: 30

See also

References

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