The man accused ofeight people, including six Asian women, at Atlanta-area spas was charged Wednesday with eight counts of murder, authorities said. The killings sparked outrage in the Asian American community, which has faced a during the coronavirus pandemic.
The suspected gunman, 21-year-old Robert Aaron Long,the attack was racially motivated but officials said it was still too early to rule out a hate crime. He told investigators he had a "sex addiction" and viewed the spas as a temptation he wanted to eliminate, officials said.
Long's family helped catch him after Tuesday's attacks. They recognized him in surveillance footage posted on social media and alerted deputies, who tracked his cellphone. Police forced his SUV off the highway and arrested him, about 150 miles south of Atlanta.
Atlanta police say they will take a "hard look" at suspect's motivation and "have not ruled anything out"
Atlanta police said Wednesday night that they are taking a "hard look" at the suspect's motivation, and said they have "not ruled anything out."
"These atrocious acts will not be tolerated and our investigators remain hard at work to ensure these deaths are investigated thoroughly," officials said. "Our goal is a successful prosecution of the shooter, to hold him accountable for his actions. Beyond processing evidence from the scenes, investigators are taking a hard look at what motivated the shooter. Our investigation is far from over and we have not ruled anything out."
Earlier Wednesday, officials said the suspect denied having racist motivations for the attack. They said the suspect claimed he had a "sex addiction" and viewed the spas as a temptation he wanted to eliminate. Of the eight shooting victims, six were Asian women.
Biden says he's praying for those impacted by shootings
President Biden said Wednesday that he and first lady Jill Biden are praying for those impacted by the shootings.
"Jill and I are keeping everyone impacted by the shootings in Atlanta in our prayers," the president wrote. "We don't yet know the motive, but what we do know is that the Asian-American community is feeling enormous pain tonight. The recent attacks against the community are un-American. They must stop."
"We have been taught as Asian Americans to keep our heads down": Georgia lawmakers decry violence
Georgia lawmakers gathered Wednesday to remember the eight victims of the Tuesday night shooting and condemn violence against Asian Americans, CBS affiliate WGCL reported.
"We have been taught as Asian Americans to keep our heads down because our parents believed it would be safer for us," Representative Bee Nguyen said from the House floor, according to WGCL. "But, what's happened is we are now invisible and when things happen to us, people don't speak up until a tragedy like this occurs."
"My ask of this chamber is to stop and call out any xenophobic rhetoric, condemn hate against any community and to keep these victims and families in your thoughts and prayers," Nguyen added.
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Suspect charged with 8 counts of murder and one count of aggravated assault
The suspect, Robert Aaron Long, has been charged with eight counts of murder in connection to the rampage.
The Cherokee County Sheriff's Office charged Long with four counts of murder and one count of aggravated assault and the Atlanta Police Department charged him with an additional four counts of murder.
"A motive is still not clear, but a crime against the community is a crime against all of us," Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said Wednesday. "I have remained in close contact with the White House and APD as they work with federal, state, and local partners to investigate the suspect who is responsible for this sensible violence in our city."
Asian Americans reported nearly 3,800 hate incidents in the past year
While the motive for the rampage remains unclear, the violence brought considerable concern to the Asian American community which has faced increased hatred throughout the coronavirus pandemic.
Asian Americans reported nearly 3,800 hate incidents over the last year, according to a new report released by Stop AAPI Hate. These included reports of harassment, shunning, slur, and physical violence.
"The number of hate incidents reported to our center represents only a fraction of the number of hate incidents that actually occur, but it does show how vulnerable Asian Americans are to discrimination, and the types of discrimination they face," the authors of the study wrote.
Verbal harassment and shunning accounted for 68% of the incidents, the report said. Physical violence accounted for 11%, with over 503 reports of violence in 2021 alone.
Family remembers the life of shooting victim: "She had a heart of gold"
Delaina Ashley Yaun, 33, was one of the victims killed in Tuesday's attack. Her family and friends said Yaun was a devoted mother, a compassionate friend and a loving daughter, who will be missed by all who knew her.
Margaret Rushing, Yaun's mother, said her daughter leaves behind her husband Mario, an 18-month-old daughter and a 14-year-old son.
"Just pray for my family. Pray that we can get through this. This is the hardest thing I've ever, ever in my whole life, had to deal with," said Rushing.
Rose Cross, a friend and co-worker of Yaun's, said she and Yaun became friends over two years ago and when she lost her apartment. She said Yuan let her move in, with her boyfriend and dog, without question.
"Anybody that knew her knew how amazing she was," Cross said. "She had a heart of gold."
"We never know when we're at the wrong place at the wrong time"
Adriana Mejia was on the way to translate for another family member when she found out her uncle had been shot. "This was so all of a sudden and it was just like a lot of things racing through my head," Mejia told CBS affiliate WGCL.
Her uncle, Elcias R. Hernandez-Ortiz, was one of the nine people shot in the rampage. He is currently in the hospital, while his "devastated" family has continued to pray for his recovery.
"We know he will be OK, but we just don't know," added Mejia.
Officials identify shooting victims
The Cherokee County Sheriff's Office identified four people who were killed and another who was injured in Tuesday's attack.
- Delaina Ashley Yaun, 33, of Acworth - Deceased
- Paul Andre Michels, 54, of Atlanta - Deceased
- Xiaojie Yan, 49, of Kennesaw - Deceased
- Daoyou Feng, 44, (unknown address) - Deceased
- Elcias R. Hernandez-Ortiz, 30, of Acworth - Injured
Harris to Asian American community: "We stand with you"
Vice President Kamala Harristo the Asian American community on Wednesday.
"We're not yet clear about the motive but I do want to say to our Asian-American community that we stand with you and understand how this has frightened and shocked and outraged all people," said Harris, the first Black, South Asian and woman vice president.
"But knowing the increasing level of hate crime against our Asian American brothers and sisters, we also want to speak out in solidarity with them and acknowledge that none of us should ever be silent in the face of any form of hate."
Suspect claims potential "sexual addiction"
The suspect admitted to carrying out the rampage and was on his way to Florida, where officials feared he would harm more people. The 21-year-old claimed the shootings weren't racially motivated — six of the eight people killed were of Asian descent.
Instead, officials said the suspect indicated he "has some issues, potentially sexual addiction" and saw the spas as a temptation that he wanted to eliminate.