By: Catherine He
In the evening of March 16, 2021, shootings at three Atlanta-area massage parlours left 8 individuals dead, including 6 Asian women. This hate crime is the latest of many that have surged in number since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020.
Deputy Chief Charles Hampton of the Atlanta Police Department said in a news conference earlier today that the suspect had patronized both of the massage businesses that were attacked in the city, where police say he shot and killed four Asian women.
After a massive wave of outrage and calls for action from this mass shooting being broadcast online, Atlanta Police officials emphasized that they were continuing to investigate all possible motives for the killings. Chief Hampton stated, “Nothing is off the table for our investigation,” when asked about discovering if this was racially motivated. It should be noted that while this case is not officially classified as a hate crime, there are many pieces of evidence pointing this killing being one.
Atlanta Police officials also sought to distance themselves from the investigation in Cherokee County, where the first four victims were killed.
“While the cases are linked by the same perpetrator,” said Sgt. John Chafee, a spokesman for the Atlanta Police Department, “our investigations are independent of one another, and there are different dynamics to each.”
The police have identified the victims of the attack on Young’s Asian Massage in Cherokee County as Delaina Ashley Yaun, 33; Paul Andre Michels, 54; Xiaojie Tan, 49; and Daoyou Feng, 44.
Chief Hampton said he could not yet release the names of the women killed at the other two spas in the city because the police have not been able to reach the “proper next of kin.” He said the police were working with the South Korean consulate to do so.
Xiaojie Tan was described longtime customer of the spa, George Hynson, as “just the sweetest, kindest, most giving person.” She was known to be an extremely hard-working owner who treated all her patrons with utmost care. Ms. Tan was just two days shy of her 50th birthday.
Daoyuan Feng was an employee of Ms. Tan, who also worked at Young Asian’s Massage. She had only been working in the spa for a few months prior to the deadly shooting.
Ms. Tan and Ms. Feng were two of four victims killed. The others were Delaina Ashley Yaun of Acworth who had gone to the spa for a date with her husband. She had never been there prior to Tuesday. Sadly, Ms. Yaun was killed, but her husband survived by locking himself in a nearby room. Ms. Yaun’s half-sister reports that, “He’s not OK,” and that, “He’s taking it hard.”
Paul Andre Michels, a businessman and U.S Army Veteran, was one of nine siblings. He was described by his brother John Michels as, “a very hard-working, loving man.”
Elcias R. Hernandez-Ortiz, the father of a soon-to-be 10 year old daughter, was injured in the attack and remains in critical condition according to his family. He was making his way to a money exchange business next door to the parlour when shots rang out, as said by his wife Flor Gonzalez. Moments later, he called Ms. Gonzalez and greeted her with “I’ve been shot! Please come.” The Cajor is wishing for his speedy recovery.
Robert Aaron Long, the white male suspect, has been charged with eight counts of murder and one count of aggravated assault. He is currently being held at the Cherokee County jail. His lawyer said that Mr. Long had waived an arraignment (a formal reading of a criminal charging document in the presence of the defendant to inform them of the charges against them) that had been scheduled for Thursday.
The sheriff’s deputy in Cherokee County stated that the suspect placed the blame of his actions on his sex addiction; since 2020 he had been trying to stop acting on his sexual desires, and in turn wanted to remove “temptations.” Despite this, Mr. Long insists that the incident was not racially motivated. In addition, the deputy in question came under fire for attributing the carrying out of the killing to Mr. Long having “a really bad day.” This statement was criticized for being highly ignorant and avoiding the real issue at hand.
However, the internet doesn’t seem to agree with any of this, calling upon the fact that the fetishization of Asian women is racist.
Mr. Long was arrested about 150 miles south of Atlanta after his parents saw a surveillance image and called the police to say that they believed their son was the wanted man. The police said Mr. Long told them he had been on his way to Florida when he was caught, where he planned to commit similar violence against a business tied to the pornography industry.
Hours before the shootings, he bought a gun from Big Woods Goods, a gun shop in suburban Atlanta. This calls the question of gun control into the picture, and how much we have actually progressed since terrifying Parkland shooting in 2018.
Our hearts are with the victims’ families at this dark time. All of the youth contributors at The Cajor are calling on the justice system to rightfully convict Robert Aaron Long of the crimes that he has committed against the Asian community.