A Georgia man who opened fire on a series of spas in the Atlanta area on Tuesday night, killing six Asian Americans and two white people, could be charged with hate crimes, the mayor of the city has said.
Keisha Lance Bottoms told CNN on Wednesday that she wanted the most severe charges possible against Robert Aaron Long, 21.
‘I think whatever the stiffest most appropriate charges there are, this guy should face those charges,’ said Bottoms.
‘In Georgia, you can be charged with a hate crime.
‘It covers a variety of areas and I personally think it would be appropriate, but I will defer to the prosecutors to make that determination.’
Long, who was arrested shortly after the shootings, has told police that his attack was not racially motivated. He said he was suffering from a sex addiction, and wanted to ‘remove temptation’.
Yet Bottoms said it was hard to ignore that Asian Americans were singled out.
Keisha Lance Bottoms said she felt hate crime charges could be brought against Long, but it was the prosecutors’ decision
Lance Bottoms appeared on CNN on Wednesday to discuss Tuesday’s mass shooting in her city
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms on the spa shootings: “I’ll leave it up to the prosecutors to determine what other appropriate charges may be warranted as it relates to hate crimes, but it’s very difficult to ignore that the Asian community has once again been targeted.” pic.twitter.com/5kAsxCYTDH
‘This is a man who murdered, eight people in cold blood, so it’s very difficult to believe what he says,’ said Bottoms.
‘It’s difficult to ignore the fact that many of the victims were Asian, all of the victims in Atlanta were Asian, in fact, and that he targeted these Asian massage parlors.’
Bottoms said it is important that people stand in solidarity with the Asian American community at this time.
‘They are being targeted unfairly and in Atlanta, what we’ve seen the worst has happened,’ she said.
She spoke hours after Georgia police were branded racist for saying the gunman was having a ‘bad day’ when he killed six Asian women, a white woman and a white man.
Four of the women were of Korean descent.
The victims have so far been named as Delaina Ashley Yaun, 33, Paul Andre Michels, 54, Xiaojie Yan, 49, and 44-year-old Daoyou Feng.
‘He was at the end of his rope and yesterday was a really bad day for him and this is what he did,’ Cherokee police Captain Jay Baker said at a press conference.
It later emerged Baker shared an image of racist t-shirts on Facebook in April last year.
The picture showed the top with a Corona beer label that read: ‘Covid 19 IMPORTED VIRUS FROM CHY-NA.’ Baker wrote: ‘Love my shirt. Get yours while they last.’
After being run off the road and taken into custody, Long told police that he was not motivated by racism but that he has a sex addiction that he blames the spas for.
Police said that it was too early to entirely rule out that racism might have played some role in the violence, but that his motive seemed clear – he was targeting the spas to eliminate sexual ‘temptation’.
Long planned to drive down to Florida and target porn industry locations afterwards but was cut short by law enforcement.
Robert Aaron Long, 21, killed eight people – six Asian women, a white woman and a white man – in a three-hour crime spree at three different spas on Tuesday.
President Joe Biden also said at a Wednesday afternoon press conference that he was making ‘no connection at this moment’ between the killings and race.
He said: ‘I’m very concerned, because as you know, I’ve been speaking about the brutality against Asian Americans for the last couple months, and I think it is very, very troubling.’
Incidents of bias against Asian people have spiked in recent months after the coronavirus was tied to Wuhan, China, and former President Donald Trump took to calling it the ‘China Virus’.
Biden added: ‘I am making no connection at this moment to the motivation of the killer. I’m waiting for an answer as the investigation proceeds from the FBI and from the Justice Department.
‘I’ll have more to say when the investigation is completed.’
But online, some Twitter users have argued Capt. Baker’s bad day comments are an example of white privilege in action.
Hari Kondabolu said: ‘The fact he sees ASIAN WOMEN as ‘temptations’ for his sex addiction is racial motivation. Not seeing this as racist IS racist. #StopAsianHate.’
Qasim Rashid tweeted: ‘Retweet if you’ve had a bad day during this pandemic or ever in life and didn’t mass murder 8 people. Apparently that’s where the bar is now. White supremacy is a helluva drug.’
But Tim Willcutts defended Capt. Baker, writing: ‘He wasn’t apologizing for him. He was attempting to explain why this happened.’ Alicia Gibbs said: ‘He’s relaying what the investigators said. He wasn’t apologizing.’
Another Twitter user, Shannon Hillis, said: ‘Not everything is about race.’
Greg Rook tweeted: ‘Two of the six shot outside Atlanta were not Asian. What would you say if he shot mostly WASPs, that he was a racist hating on white people? BTW, I am a very progressive, liberal democrat, but I’m tiring of this constant virtue signaling. Not everything is about race or racism.’ WASPs refers to white Anglo-Saxon protestants.
Long’s family – including his youth minister father – are said to be ‘devastated’ by his actions and are cooperating with the investigation.
His parents are said to have called 911 to report their son after seeing surveillance photos of him released by police during the rampage.
Capt. Baker said: ‘We are really appreciative of the family. Without them, this would not have happened as, well, as quickly as it happened. They were very supportive, and certainly this was difficult for them.’
‘Yesterday was a really bad day for him and this is what he did’ said Georgia police Captain Jay Baker of the suspect who killed 6 Asian women and 2 others at massage parlors in the Atlanta area pic.twitter.com/X47arE84cc
Captain Jay Baker said on Wednesday that the shooter had had a ‘very bad day’ and was ‘at the end of his rope’
It later emerged Baker shared an image of racist t-shirts on Facebook in April last year
The picture showed the top with a Corona beer label that read: ‘Covid 19 IMPORTED VIRUS FROM CHY-NA.’ Baker wrote: ‘Love my shirt. Get yours while they last’
On Wednesday, as more details of the shootings in Georgia emerged, politicians and stars took to Twitter and Instagram in their droves to connect it to the multiple Asian-American hate crimes of late.
They acknowledged that not all of the details were known yet but said it was still cause to talk about the issue.
Barack Obama, Kim Kardashian West, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the NFL and Andrew Cuomo were among those who tweeted about the killings and Asian-American hate.
The hashtag #StopAsianHate was the third trend on Twitter and the Association of Asian American Journalists has released a set of guidelines to newsrooms on the subject.
Obama tweeted: ‘Even as we’ve battled the pandemic, we’ve continued to neglect the longer-lasting epidemic of gun violence in America.
‘Although the shooter’s motive is not yet clear, the identity of the victims underscores an alarming rise in anti-Asian violence that must end.’
Embattled New York Governor Andrew Cuomo tweeted: ‘Our hearts break for the 8 victims of the Georgia shootings last night, 6 of Asian descent.
‘While we await details from Georgia, this much we do know: Hate crimes against Asian Americans have soared during COVID. And it must stop.
‘NY will always stand up against bigotry & hate.’
In a statement, NFL player Younghoe Koo said: ‘I am deeply saddened by the events that took place in Atlanta yesterday and although there is no definitive answer yet on what this investigation will bring, I feel now is the time to address the rise in hate crimes against ALL races over the last few years.
‘As an Asian American, I have heard the jokes and name calling. I often dealt with it by ignoring what was said and minding my own business.
‘I don’t have all the answers but I realize now more than ever that this is an issue that needs to be addressed and that ignoring it won’t help us do that.
‘I know this one post won’t solve the problem, but I hope to help raise awareness on hate crimes against us all.’
Some called the Georgia cops racist and said the attack was ‘clearly’ race-driven.
At Wednesday’s press conference, Baker said: ‘[Long] does claim that it was not racially motivated.
‘He apparently has an issue, what he considers a sex addiction, and sees these locations … [as] a temptation for him that he wanted to eliminate.’
Atlanta Police Chief Rodney Bryant said it was too early to rule out racism.
‘We are just not there as of yet,’ he said.
Long has been charged with killing eight people at three Atlanta-area massage parlors. The gunman bought his 9mm handgun hours before the rampage, police said.
He was on his way to Florida to carry out more attacks when he was caught. The Florida locations were somehow connected to pornography, police said on Wednesday without revealing more details.
Atlanta police on Wednesday released 911 calls made during the shooting. In one a woman inside the Gold Spa tells the operator she is hiding and that a robbery is in progress.
Ten minutes later in a second call regarding the Aromatherapy Spa a caller says: ‘They said some guy came in. We heard a gunshot and, you know, the lady’s passed out in front of the door. And everybody is scared and everybody is hiding.’
A classmate who attended high school with Long earlier told The Daily Beast anonymously: ‘He was very innocent seeming and wouldn’t even cuss. He was sorta nerdy and didn’t seem violent from what I remember. He was a hunter and his father was a youth minister or pastor.
‘He was big into religion.’
Long is believed to have first opened fire at Young’s Asian Massage near Acworth, a city about 32 miles northwest of Atlanta, at 5pm. Four people were killed in that shooting.
Then, Long is accused of driving to Atlanta and opening fire in Gold Massage Spa, killing three women.
When police were there, they received reports of more shots across the street at Aromatherapy Spa, where the eighth victim was found.
Long went on the run after the shootings and was eventually arrested after police rammed his Hyundai off the road.
Three shootings at spas and massage parlors around Atlanta left eight people dead and police on the hunt for those responsible
The suspect was captured by surveillance video pulling up to Young’s Asian Massage around 4:50pm, just minutes before the shooting
People with the medical examiner’s office wheel out a body on a stretcher from the Gold Spa massage parlor where three people were shot and killed on Tuesday in Atlanta, Georgia
While police say his sex addiction is the motive, many have pointed to the fact that the attacks happened during a period of heightened violence against Asian Americans.
Delaina Ashley Yaun, 33, was killed in the first parlor in Acworth. Her friends claim she was a customer and had gone to the parlor in Acworth to get her own massage when she was killed
The president is scheduled to travel to Atlanta on Friday to promote his America Rescue Plan as part of his sales pitch on COVID relief but that trip will likely be altered to acknowledge the shootings.
Biden condemned the increased number of hate crimes against Asians in his primetime speech last week, saying they have been ‘attacked, harassed, blamed and scapegoated’ because of the coronavirus pandemic.
‘It’s wrong. It’s un-American, and it must stop,’ he said.
Georgia Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock, a minister, said ‘this kind of violence’ is driven by hate even if the suspect said that was not his motive.
‘Anybody who takes precious lives in that manner is driven by hate,’ he told reporters on Capitol Hill.
‘This kind of violence happens too often in America. And we weep with those who weep. But we got to do everything we can in terms of addressing bigotry and hate in our country,’ he said.
Authorities investigate a fatal shooting at Young’s Asian Massage where a gunman opened fire before targeting two other businesses
Law enforcement officials confer outside Gold Spa following a shooting on Tuesday