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Atlanta Shooting Suspect’s Church Decries Killings as ‘Wicked Betrayal’

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The Baptist church where the suspect in the spa murder in the Atlanta area this week was a member released a statement Friday denying the attack as a vicious apostasy and described eight victims, including six women of Asian descent, who are flawless.

Robert Aaron Long, 21, was charged with eight counts of manslaughter Tuesday with four people at a two -day spa in Atlanta and four others at a massage parlor in Cherokee County, about 40 miles (64 km) from north of the state capital. .

In a statement, Crabapple First Baptist Church in Milton, Georgia, said that “Long’s excessive and wicked actions were nothing less than rebellion against our Holy God and His Word.”

Investigators said Long admitted to carrying out the attacks, claiming he was driven by internal conflict over what he described as a sex addiction, not racial animus among Asians.

But the excessive attacks have provoked fear among Asian Americans, who see the crimes as part of a national wave of racially motivated attacks accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris are due to visit Atlanta on Friday to offer support to Asian-Americans and meet with leaders of the growing Asian-American and Pacific Islander communities in the area.

Authorities stressed that they did not deny charging Long of hate crimes even though Long said racial bias was not his motivation.

“Aaron’s actions are against everything we believe and teach as a church. In the strongest possible terms, we condemn Aaron Long’s actions as well as his stated reasons for carrying out this plot. , “said the church, of which Long and his father are members. “No one can blame the victims.”

A former roommate of Long at a rehabilitation center said the suspect would feel shame and remorse after visiting massage parlors for sex, then “return to God.”

Fulton County officials Thursday identified the four victims in Atlanta as Soon C. Park, 74, Hyun J. Grant, 51, Suncha Kim, 69, and Yong A. Yue, 63. All were of Korean descent. , according to the South Korean consulate in Atlanta.

The Cherokee County victims were identified by authorities as: Delaina Ashley Yaun, 33, Paul Andre Michels, 54, Xiaojie Yan, 49, and Daoyou Feng, 44.

The Georgia killing prompted police departments to intensify patrols and visibility in Asian-American communities across the country. Hate crimes against Asian Americans in 16 major cities rose 149% in 2020 over 2019, according to the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism.

A Cherokee County Sheriff’s department spokesman who went under criticism for saying Long had “had a really bad day” and that previously promoting T-shirts blaming Asians for the pandemic had been appointed, reported of the New York Times.

Captain Jay Baker, named as director of communications on the sheriff’s website, was replaced by Erika Neldner, whose signature email identifies him as director of communications.

(Reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta; Additional reporting by Daniel Trotta in Vista, California; Editing by Alistair Bell)

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